A recent report, published by top American think-tank based in Washington DC, the Pew Research Center, has found India faring poorest among the 25 most populous countries across the world in social hostilities index (SHI), which seeks to analyse 13 different issues related with social tensions arising out of religious discord and violence.
Significantly, it is the same Pew which created a major flutter ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when it said that nearly two-thirds people of India supported the Narendra Modi-led BJP, giving the first major international indication that it was poised for a major victory.
Scoring a high 9.5 on a scale of 10, India’s score is found to be worse than several all the South Asian countries, including Pakistan, which scores 7.7, followed by Bangladesh 7.2, Afghanistan 6.5, Burma (Myanmar). 5.9, Sri Lanka 5.6, Nepal 2.6, China 1.3 and Bhutan 0.4. Titled “A Closer Look at How Religious Restrictions Have Risen Around the World”, this is the 10th report since 2007 seeking to delve into government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion.
The report states, “Communal violence has long been common in India, which continued to score high in this category in 2017”. It cites “media reports” to say now “a dispute between two Hindu and Muslim high school students in Gujarat escalated into a mob attack on the village’s Muslim residents”, leading to “homes and vehicles” being “set on fire” and about 50 homes “ransacked by the mob.”
As for government restrictions index (GRI), which seeks to analyse official restrictions placed on religious freedom, Pew finds that India, with a score of 5.4 on a scale of 10, does better than China, which is the worst performer in the region, scoring 8.9, followed by Burma 6.9, Pakistan (6.6), Burma and Afghanistan (6.5), but worse than Bangladesh (4.8), Nepal (4.6), Bhutan (4.6) and Sri Lanka (3.8).
Overall trend of the last 10 years suggests that India’s SHI rose from 8.8 in June 2007 to 9.7 in December 2016, but slightly came down to 9.5 in December 2017. As for India’s GRI, it was 4.8 in June 2007, which rose to 5.1 in December 2016, and further to 5.4 in December 2017.
Basing itself on 20 published sources of information, including reports by the US State Department, the United Nations and various nongovernmental organizations, the report seeks answers to the questions on a country-by-country basis.
It says, “In 2017, among the 25 most populous countries, Egypt, India, Russia, Pakistan and Indonesia had the highest overall levels of both government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion. The countries in this group with the lowest overall scores were Japan, South Korea, South Africa, the Philippines and Brazil.”
Pointing out that more than 5 billion people – or three-quarters of the world’s population – live in the planet’s 25 most populous countries, including China, India and the United States, the report says, “Looking at restrictions in these countries can give insight into how large segments of the world’s population are affected by government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion.”
According to the report, “The very populous countries with the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion were India, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Bangladesh, with all five experiencing ‘very high’ levels of hostilities. Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Iran had the lowest levels of social hostilities among the world’s 25 most populous countries; all were either ‘low’ or ‘moderate’.”
“The highest government restrictions among the most populous countries occurred in China, Iran, Russia, Egypt and Indonesia, with all ranking in the ;very high’ category of restrictions”, the report notes, adding, “The lowest-ranking countries were South Africa, Japan, the Philippines, Brazil and South Korea. These countries fell into the ‘low’ category of government restrictions, with the exception of South Korea, which had a ‘moderate’ level of government restrictions on religion in 2017.
“In some countries”, the report says, “Levels of government restrictions roughly matched levels of social hostilities. For example, Egypt and Pakistan had ‘very high’ levels of both government restrictions and social hostilities in 2017, while Japan scored ‘low’ on both indexes.”
“In other cases, the two scores diverge sharply. China had the highest level of government restrictions among all 198 countries in the study in 2017, yet it had low levels of social hostilities. And Iran had the second-highest government restrictions score among all countries in 2017 – behind China – but experienced only “moderate” levels of social hostilities involving religion”, the report says.