POPULATION1,205,073,612 (July 2012 est.)
GDP PER CAPITA$3,700 (2011 est.)
RELIGIONSHindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.1% (2001 census)
ALSO IN SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIAAfghanistan
AT THE CENTER
Religion has consistently played an important and contentious role in Indian politics and society. The country has a long history of religious diversity; it has given rise to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, and over the course of centuries Islam has become India’s second largest faith. The largest community of Zoroastrians has made their home in Mumbai, India for hundreds of years and the country boasts the oldest Jewish population outside of Jerusalem. Amidst this diversity, India has developed a tradition of religious tolerance, personified by figures like Akbar the Great, a Muslim Mughal King (1556-1605) and Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian nationalist leader (1869-1948). Yet, from Timur’s invasion in 1398 to the Gujarat riots of 2002, the country has also suffered many tragic episodes of religio-political violence. Following Independence from the British, India’s government embraced secular democracy and religious pluralism; the Indian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, mandates the government treat all religions equally, and in certain cases allows religious communities to use their own legal systems for adjudication. For example, an Indian Muslim may choose to pursue divorce proceedings in the Indian civil court or in the Islamic Shariah court. However, these pluralistic government policies are currently contested by Hindu nationalist groups that call for greater recognition and adherence to of the country’s Hindu heritage.