New Delhi, Sept. 9: Stung by criticism of the methodology used to arrive at the growth rates of religious communities, the Census Commission has decided to incorporate a fresh set of decade-wise figures calculated after excluding Jammu and Kashmir and Assam alongside its 'unadjusted' numbers in its latest report.
Neither set will give the exact picture at the national level as no census was conducted in Assam in 1981 and Jammu and Kashmir in 1991. But census officials concede the new growth rates could be closer to reality.
'We are leaving it to data users to decide which set they want to go by, the unadjusted growth rates or the adjusted (ones) which will leave out two states that have a significant proportion of Muslims,' a Census Commission official said.
Census commissioner J.K. Banthia said there were several ways to interpret the data; 'the simplest was to not make any interpolation' and let professional demographers do the calculations.
The Census Commission had released unadjusted growth rates for different religious communities that indicated that at 36 per cent, Muslims were not only growing faster than any other community but also faster than they had ever grown since Independence. The growth rate for Hindus was projected as having come down by five percentage points to 20.5 per cent.
The Census Commission has taken the stand that for strictly comparable data, there was no option but to exclude figures pertaining to Assam and Jammu and Kashmir ' two states where there were a significant number of Muslims for all decades under comparison.
The official claimed there would have been a furore if they had left out the two politically sensitive states from their calculations in the initial stage. On the other hand, interpolating data for the two states when no surveys were conducted would have invited criticism from demographers.
'Adjusted' figures since the decade beginning 1961, which will be incorporated in a separate table in the analysis of the statistical data, suggest the growth rate of Muslims has been hovering around 30 per cent.
After a marginal increase in 1971-81, Hindu growth rates have been consistently declining over the last two decades.