[Congress says said the minister's remarks were contradictory to the 2011 population census in India -- a country that has over 97 crore Hindus who make up 79.8 per cent of its population.]
New Delhi: Sparking a controversy at the time when election process is on in India's five states, Minister of State for Home Kiran Rijju Monday said Hindu population was shrinking while minorities were flourishing in India.
The opposition parties, including the Congress, hit back quoting from the latest census data which contradicted the minister's "irresponsible statement".
In a message posted on Twitter, Kiran Rijju said, "Hindu population is reducing in India because Hindus never convert people. Minorities in India are flourishing unlike some countries around (sic)."
Rijju's cooments came after the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee accused the Narendra Modi -led BJP government of trying to convert Arunachal Pradesh into a Hindu state.
"India is a secular country. All religious groups enjoy freedom and live peacefully," Rijju later told the media in Delhi while criticizing the Congress for "such provocative statements".
"Why is the Congress making such irresponsible statements? People of Arunachal Pradesh are unitedly living peacefully with each other," the BJP MP from north eastern state said.
Reacting to his statement, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi said he should remember that he is a "minister of India for all Indians not for Hindus only".
"Remember your oath as minister," the Hyderabad MP said.
"Wht have the minorities India got to do with minorities of 'other' countries. It is Constitution which guarantees rights (sic)," he tweeted.
Slamming the minister's comment, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said it was "an irresponsible statement" by Rijiju that was not limited to just Arunachal Pradesh.
"When a union minister makes such an irresponsible, he must be held to account," Tewari told reporters.
He said the minister's remarks were contradictory to the 2011 population census in India -- a country that has over 97 crore Hindus who make up 79.8 per cent of its population. As per the census, there are some 17 crore million Muslims, making up nearly 14.25 per cent of India's 130 crore India. Among the other minorities, Christians make up 2.3 per cent and Sikhs 2.16 per cent.
Reading out the Census data, the Congress spokesperson said that population growth rate of various religions had come down in the decade of 2001-2011.
Growth rate of Hindus has come down to 16.76 per cent from 19.92 in the previous decade, he said, adding Muslims also witnessed a sharp fall in growth rate from 29.52 per cent in the decade of 1991-2001 to 24.60 per cent in 2001-2011.
"Does the minister of state for home have any other empirical data beyond 2011 census for making such an irresponsible statement," the Congress leader asked.
Interestingly, Rijju's remarks came days after United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its report stated that Muslims and other religious minorities in India are subjected to hatred and discrimination, according to ARY News.
Intolerance against minorities has increased in India under the premiership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Express Tribune reported quoting USCIRF on Wednesday.
The American body analyzed mounting concerns over the fate of minorities in the secular country, highlighting constitutional laws which violate the religious freedom of minorities and Hindu Dalits.
“As feared by many faith communities across India, threats, hate crimes, social boycotts, desecrations of places of worship, assaults, and forced conversions led by radical Hindu nationalist movements have escalated dramatically under the BJP led government,” the USCIRF claims.
The commission has urged the U.S. government to ensure religious freedom and human rights in its diplomatic and economic ties with India.