Indians from different religious backgrounds are most comfortable within a silo of people who share the same faith.
A majority of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Jains in India believe people, especially women, must not marry someone who doesn’t share their religious ideology, a new Pew Research Center study reveals.
Pew’s survey is based on face-to-face interviews with nearly 30,000 adults conducted in 17 languages between late 2019 and early 2020.
Hindus who support Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were more likely to oppose marriages across religious lines than Hindus who didn’t.
This is unsurprising considering that the BJP has been known to support Hindutva—an ideology that roots nationalism in Hindu values. Since the party came into power in 2014, interfaith couples have had a tough time.
Starting with Uttar Pradesh’s November 2020 ordinance that made a religious conversion for marriage unlawful, several BJP-ruled states have announced similar laws to stop what they call “love jihad.” On June 27, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the national spokesperson for Punjab’s center-right party Shiromani Akali Dal, called for similar laws in Jammu and Kashmir, alleging the forceful conversion of Sikh girls to Islam in the valley.
Generally, most Indians said they are free to practice their religion and few said they face discrimination. But they still preferred to stay within their groups. Very few married Indians, less than 1%, have a spouse that doesn’t share their religion.
And marriage is far from the only aspect of life where the different communities prefer to stay segregated.
A large majority—86% overall—say all or most of their close friends are of their own religious community, Pew found. This is overwhelmingly true for Hindus who comprise a majority of Indians and may therefore chance upon more fellow Hindus. However, it is also true for Sikhs and Jains, who are a tiny part of the population.
“In many ways, Indian society resembles a ‘patchwork fabric’ with clear lines of separation between religious communities,” Pew noted.
The same trend plays out when it comes to living arrangements, too.
More than a third of Hindus in India say they would not be willing to live near a Muslim, and 31% say they would not want a Christian as a neighbour, Pew found. Jains have more staunch beliefs on the topic with 54% being unwilling to accept a Muslim as a neighbour and 47% not accepting a Christian living near them.