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Are Indian Tribals Hindus: Part 3

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Are Indian Tribals Hindus: Part 3

Read the previous parts here.

III. The North

At this point, we can see the figures for the northern region, consisting of Jammu-Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh., which will obviously be different from the two regions already seen, since this represents the northernmost part of India lying close to the confluence of the Muslim West of Asia and the Buddhist North of Asia. Parts of the state of Jammu-Kashmir are occupied by (Muslim) Pakistan and (once-Buddhist) China, and even within the non-occupied areas, we have the three regions of Muslim-dominated Kashmir, Buddhist-dominated Ladakh, and Hindu-dominated Jammu. In these circumstances, we can naturally expect a three-fold division among the tribal populations also.We thus have the Muslim-majority tribes, the Buddhist-majority tribes and the Hindu-majority tribes:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Muslims %age of Buddhists %age of Hindus Total %age of M+B+H
Gujjar JK, HP 7,59,820 96.45 0 3.55 100.00
Purigpa JK 39,866 100.00 0 0 100.00
Bakarwal JK 18,209 100.00 0 0 100.00
Balti JK 6,553 100.00 0 0 100.00
Bot/Mangrik JK, HP 1,42,636 0.18 95.58 4.20 99.96
Brokpa JK 12,094 12.50 87.50 0 100.00
Changpa JK 11,465 0 100.00 0 100.00
Mon JK 7,225 0 100.00 0 100.00
Jad HP 1,626 5.84 67.16 26.08 99.08
Garra JK 756 0 100.00 0 100.00
Gaddi JK, HP 1,84,508 0.50 0.02 99.48 100.00
Kinnaura HP 62,133 2.78 37.22 59.75 99.75
Pangwala HP 18,109 0 1.13 98.85 99.98
Swangla HP 9,437 0 10.42 89.45 99.87
Lahaula HP 3,763 0.49 49.14 50.20 99.83

In spite of the mixed nature of the religious composition of the tribes in the northern region, it is clear that, here also, there are no “Hindu Category Three” tribals, and the tribals are either “Hindu Category One” or “Hindu Category Two” (Buddhist) or converted Muslims, obviously converted from the originally “Hindu Category One/Two” tribals of the area. [Figures for two very small tribes, the predominantly Buddhist Beda and the predominantly Hindu Sippi, do not seem to be available]

IV. The West-Central Heartland

The West-Central heartland of India consists of the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan in the West and Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in Central India. We must also include here the small states or territories of Goa, Daman-Diu and Dadra-Nagar-Haveli. First we will take the tribes having more than 97% declared Hindus:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus
Bhil M, G, R, MP, C 143,63,991 98.53
Koli G 75,99,057 99.59
Kunbi G 75,88,339 99.81
Mina R, MP 45,74,086 99.80
KoliMahadev M 14,20,656 99.55
Kol M, MP, C 11,70,525 99.55
Kokna M, G, R, DNH 10,61,071 97.46
Varli M, G, Go, DD, DNH 10,48,729 98.05
Kawar M, MP, C 9,38,210 97.81
Halbi/Halba M, MP, C 8,40,531 98.65
Dubla M, G, Go, DD, DNH 8,27,807 99.60
Korka M, MP, C 8,25,382 99.60
Dhodia M, G, Go, DD, DNH 7,91,050 99.25
Bharwad G 6,90,024 100.00
Rathawa M, G 6,25,644 99.84
Sahariya R, MP, C 5,88,947 99.66
Vaghri G 5,20,004 99.99
Thakar M 4,87,171 99.57
Baiga M, MP, C 4,65,189 99.34
Andh M, MP, C 4,23,420 99.22
Chaudhari G 3,65,554 98.42
Rabari G 3,30,773 100.00
BhariaBhumia M, MP, C 3,30,179 99.19
Pardhan M, MP, C 3,23,079 98.91
Kathodi M, G, R, DNH 2,99,757 98.61
KoliMalhar M 2,93,919 98.65
KoliDhor M, G, R, DNH 2,92,537 98.32
Garasia R 2,34,412 99.27
Kolowar/Kolami M, MP, C 2,17,212 99.47
Pardhi M, G, MP, C 2,09,600 99.36
Bhattra M, MP, C 1,99,219 98.99
Panika MP 1,91,799 99.58
Saur MP, C 1,82,483 99.86
Dhanwar M, MP, C 1,64,475 99.44
Khairwar M, MP, C 1,53,067 99.52
Naikda M, G, R, Go, DD, DNH 1,34,817 99.40
Majhi MP C 1,21,712 99.22
Korwa MP, C 1,17,062 97.34
Charan G 1,05,778 100.00
Mawasi MP, C 1,04,866 99.45
Agariya MP, C 1,02,795 99.18
Sonr MP, C 75,748 98.48
Pao MP, C 69,856 99.83
Bhaina M, MP, C 69,848 97.24
Damaria/Damor R, MP, C 61,281 98.59
Majhwar MP, C 61,120 99.02
Keer MP 50,310 99.92
Kamar M, MP, C 39,600 99.09
Karku MP, C 30,402 99.83
Padhar G 24,273 100.00
Bhunjia M, MP, C 23,189 98.65
Chodhara M, G 20,303 99.26
Barda M, G 15,878 98.52
KuiKhond M, MP, C 15,321 98.99
Biar/Biyar MP, C 14,697 99.11
Gadaba MP, C 10,089 99.06
Bavcha M, G 8,098 98.10
Saonta MP, C 4,781 99.62
Birhor M, MP, C 4,570 98.69
Pomla M, G 2,327 99.53
Saora/Savara M, MP 2,271 99.56
Kisan/Nagasia M, MP, C                      256 100.00

The following are the tribes having between 90-97% of declared Hindus:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age Of Muslims Total %age H+C+M
Gond M, G, MP, C 108,70,476 93.21 0.69 93.90
Gamit M, G 6,30,075 91.91 8.02 99.93
Dhanka M, G, R 4,20,398 93.36 2.44 3.92 99.72
Kharia M, MP, C 77,413 96.47 3.34 99.81
BhilMina R, MP, C 60,077 96.34 2.93 99.27
Vitholia M, G 30,892 94.39 5.56 99.95
Parja M, MP, C 6,542 96.35 2.87 99.22

And finally the few tribes where Hindus are less than 90%:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age Of Muslims Total %age H+C+M
Oraon MP, C 7,48,901 64.34 32.88 97.22
Munda MP, C 13,222 86.39 11.99 98.38
Patelia M, G, R 8,791 83.60 0.19 15.22 99.01
Koya M 802 86.78 12.84 99.62

To sum up the situation so far: we have seen the religious composition of the tribals in the whole of India to the north, west and south of the Jharkhand-Orissa line, and we find that in the overwhelming majority of the tribes the percentage of “Hindu Category One” tribals is far above 90%, and far more than the percentage of the Hindus in the general population of the states concerned. The tribals are more emphatically Hindu than the non-tribals of these states. In the few tribes where the powerful missionary machinery has made any impact, the converts are obviously from among “Hindu Category One” tribals, and “Hindu Category Three” tribals are almost totally absent.

It is only in the single case of the Gond tribe of the Western-Central heartland region that we find “Hindu Category Three” tribals of any significance: a total of 6,51,111 tribals from the Gond tribe in this region declare themselves to be neither Hindu-Buddhist-Sikh-Jain nor Muslim-Christian-Parsee-Jew. It is true that this is only 5.99% of the total Gond population of 108,70,476 in this region, and the “Hindu Category One” Gonds number 101,32,841, or 93.21% of the tribe. Nevertheless, we have here one case of a “Hindu Category Three” religion: a Gond religion. [As we also saw earlier, out of the miniscule population of 1,625 Ho tribals in Bihar, 3.08% declare themselves likewise to be “Hindu Category Three”, while 88.62% are outright Hindus. But this is only a spillover from the neighbouring Jharkhand area, as we shall see in a moment].

V. The Eastern Heartland

Finally, we come to that part of India which is at the centre of the whole question: the region comprising the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa. Here we come across the first major “Hindu Category Three” religion followed by a large number of tribals in Jharkhand, spilling over into the neighbouring states: The Sarna religion. As Jharkhand is the core area, we must examine the figures for the three states separately, to get a clearer picture. Also note the fact that this is the part of the Indian heartland where the Christian missionary military apparatus has struck in the deepest (not counting the East, which we will examine later), preying on both the “Hindu Category One” tribals as well as the “Hindu Category Three” tribals (although their modus operandi in the two cases must obviously contain some differences). Hence, there is a three-way division of the tribals into “Hindu Category One”, converted Christian, and (in the column entitled “Others”) “Hindu Category Three”. The Sarna religion is found mainly among the large Santal, Oraon, Munda and Ho tribes, but has adherents among most of the other tribes as well. We will first see the tribes in which more than a third of the population belong to the “Others” category:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age of “Others” %age of H+C+O
Santal J 30,48,657 60.67 5.22 34.00 99.89
Oraon J 16,07,311 31.55 16.45 52.00 100.00
Munda J 12,05,682 29.51 21.78 48.62 99.91
Santal O 8,92,456 50.07 1.29 48.61 99.97
Ho J 8,55,404 8.73 1.75 89.38 99.86
Bhumij J 2,15,898 58.88 0.81 40.21 99.90
Asur J 13,576 23.90 15.74 60.28 99.92

Next, the tribes in which the “Others” category is between 20% and 33%:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age of “Others” %age of H+C+O
Santal WB 28,28,524 65.51 2.56 31.84 99.91
Lohra J 2,32,742 76.15 2.46 21.23 99.84
Kharia J 2,05,227 37.61 40.19 21.97 99.77
Binjhia J 18,688 49.83 22.84 27.14 99.81
Mahli O 15,705 74.61 1.79 23.46 99.86
Gorait J 5,401 55.10 21.87 22.79 99.76
Bathudi J 3,694 74.53 1.84 23.42 99.79

Next, the tribes in which the “Others” category is between 10% and 20%:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age of “Others” %age of H+C+O
Munda WB 5,17,299 74.15 11.12 14.42 99.69
Mahli J 1,50,769 78.06 3.07 18.76 99.89
Malto J 1,11,073 81.42 7.93 10.29 99.64
ChikBaraik J 61,342 72.14 9.12 18.45 99.71
Gond J 60,260 78.56 1.56 19.77 99.89
Kisan J 43,177 74.44 5.31 18.83 98.58
Ho WB 16,627 85.88 2.00 11.67 99.55
Karmali WB 11,809 81.40 1.63 15.21 98.24
Birjia J 7,018 64.41 21.52 13.61 99.54
Saora J 6,078 78.05 3.67 18.21 99.93
KuiKhond J 5,533 83.41 2.93 13.05 99.39

Next, we will examine the figures for the other tribes in the three states, first Jharkhand:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age of “Others” %age of H+C+O
Chero J 95,766 99.09 0.10 0.77 99.96
Bedia J 95,378 90.55 0.19 9.25 99.99
Karmali J 67,555 90.95 1.35 7.16 99.46
SauriaPahadia J 62,762 81.34 10.44 7.61 99.41
Parhaiya J 42,553 90.92 2.35 6.66 99.93
Korwa J 36,259 88.25 2.25 9.09 99.59
Kora J 29,906 86.83 3.11 9.23 99.17
Birhor J 11,715 80.16 11.81 7.78 99.75
Baiga J 5,593 90.27 1.63 7.62 99.52
Banjara J 632 98.42 0.00 1.42 99.84

Next, West Bengal:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age of “Others” %age of H+C+O
Oraon WB 8,46,561 75.90 16.02 7.40 99.32
Bhumij WB 4,08,764 99.32 0.36 0.17 99.85
Kora WB 1,53,012 93.60 1.87 4.38 99.85
Mahli WB 1,28,672 90.46 5.85 3.16 99.47
Lodha WB 96,420 84.11 14.94 0.81 99.86
Bedia WB 67,067 98.75 0.32 0.85 99.92
Saora WB 65,471 96.56 1.10 1.21 98.87
Lohra WB 55,082 90.14 1.76 6.23 98.13
Malto WB 49,536 90.71 8.82 0.27 99.80
Mech WB 42,279 62.43 37.28 0.11 99.82
Kharwar WB 29,140 94.62 3.70 0.63 98.95
ChikBaraik WB 26,351 91.11 5.56 3.17 99.84
Bhutia WB 24,084 0.00 0.28 0.00 0.28
Rabha WB 21,529 85.90 9.82 0.61 96.33
Parhaiya WB 11,286 97.07 1.45 1.17 99.69
Baiga WB 10,838 96.37 0.79 0.19 97.35
Gond WB 8,861 97.02 1.89 0.84 99.75
Kisan WB 8,643 95.47 3.70 0.63 99.80
Korwa WB 7,072 92.29 5.06 2.48 99.83
Asur WB 6,899 92.52 5.61 0.00 98.13
Garo WB 5,174 44.76 53.94 0.32 99.02
Gorait WB 4,777 94.43 3.56 1.42 99.41
Chero WB 3,321 95.48 3.23 0.00 98.71
Hajang WB 2,274 84.26 7.30 0.84 92.40
Mru WB 2,228 94.21 3.32 1.53 99.06
Birjia WB 1,771 93.79 3.78 0.40 97.97
Birhor WB 1,381 98.26 1.45 0.15 99.86
Chakma WB 441 75.06 7.48 0.00 82.54

[The percentage of Buddhists in three of the above tribes in West Bengal is noteworthy: Bhutia 99.72%, Chakma 15.87%, and Hajang 7.40%]

And next, Orissa:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age of “Others” %age of H+C+O
KuiKhond O 15,73,579 82.62 17.05 0.29 99.96
Gond* O 9,71,000 93.78 1.03 5.09 99.90
Shabar* O 5,92,000 84.09 15.60 0.29 99.98
Kolha O 5,68,747 92.57 0.70 6.71 99.98
Saora O 5,53,983 87.09 12.23 0.65 99.97
Munda O 5,50,748 73.08 22.95 3.96 99.99
Paroja* O 4,88,000 98.20 1.61 0.14 99.95
Bhottada O 4,19,464 95.35 4.60 0.05 100.00
Kisan O 3,60,328 92.55 6.74 0.68 99.97
Oraon O 3,60,072 61.16 36.30 2.54 100.00
Bhuiya* O 3,48,000 99.62 0.11 0.27 100.00
Bhumij* O 2,50,000 90.77 0.75 8.39 99.91
Kharia O 2,30,331 68.83 30.57 0.56 99.96
Binjhal* O 1,60,000 81.73 17.99 0.24 99.96
Bhumia* O 1,52,000 96.68 3.21 0.07 99.96
Sounti* O 1,35,000 99.78 0.10 0.06 99.94
Koya O 1,30,735 96.11 3.77 0.11 99.99
Gadaba* O 97,000 97.41 2.11 0.38 99.90
Juang O 49,899 99.59 0.28 0.10 99.97
Mundari O 43,398 85.09 11.54 3.37 100.00
Mirdha* O 41,000 98.67 1.31 0.02 100.00
Kotia O 39,982 99.19 0.20 0.59 99.98
Omanatya* O 36,000 99.42 0.42 0.15 99.99
Dal* O 28,000 99.72 0.00 0.24 99.96
Konda Dhora O 26,920 98.24 1.59 0.11 99.94
Holva O 19,114 98.20 1.60 0.09 99.89
Matia* O 18,000 99.97 0.01 0.02 100.00
KolLohra O 17,134 93.77 2.08 3.90 99.75
Dharua O 16,081 99.88 0.12 0.00 100.00
Pentia* O 16,000 96.88 2.14 0.98 100.00
Bhunjia O 15,058 97.80 0.55 1.54 99.89
Lodha* O 14,000 99.73 0.26 0.01 100.00
Kora* O 14,000 93.93 1.77 4.09 99.79
Kawar O 13,716 98.51 1.11 0.24 99.86
Jatapu O 12,724 82.44 12.02 5.21 99.67
Binjhia O 11,316 97.86 0.08 2.05 99.99
BondoPoroja O 10,238 98.43 1.24 0.28 99.95
Kuli* O 8,700 98.33 1.14 0.26 99.73
Kol O 7,934 86.25 12.04 1.56 99.85
Didayi O 7,647 99.87 0.00 0.12 99.99
Malhar* O 7,000 98.78 0.12 0.25 99.15
Parenga* O 6,800 99.01 0.71 0.28 100.00
Bagata O 6,673 94.89 3.43 1.59 99.91
Gandia O 5,015 98.96 0.64 0.38 99.98
Kharwar* O 4,600 96.87 1.03 1.87 99.77
Rajuar* O 4,300 99.96 0.03 0.01 100.00
Korwa* O 2,800 97.96 1.02 0.97 99.95
DesauBhumij* O 2,600 97.27 0.00 1.84 99.11
Tharua* O 2,200 95.54 2.27 1.49 99.30
Ghara* O 2,200 97.02 2.41 0.44 99.87
Baiga O 2,169 90.73 7.28 1.75 99.76
Mankirdia* O 2,100 91.17 3.34 5.49 100.00
Mankidi* O 1,600 90.90 0.29 8.80 99.99
Birhor* O 1,400 87.81 7.37 4.57 99.75
Chenchu* O 400 99.69 0.02 0.23 99.94

[The tribal names marked with an asterisk (*) represent tribes of Orissa which, for some unknown reason, are completely missing in the Joshua Project figures for Orissa. This mysterious anomaly in respect of the figures for Orissa is in sharp contrast with the otherwise meticulously detailed figures for all the other areas. The figures for these tribes in Orissa therefore had to be gleaned from the figures given in the Joshua Project data for the individual tribes]

To sum up the data for the whole of India analysed so far:

In the whole of India to the north, west and south of the Jharkhand-Orissa line, the tribals are almost exclusively Hindu Category One (and a few tribes in the Himalayan region, Hindu-Buddhist, or Hindu Category One and Two), and any conversions to Christianity or (in a few areas like Kashmir) Islam are exclusively from Hindu tribals. The only possible Hindu Category Three people are a section of Gonds, but even among the Gonds they number only 5.99% of the Gond population of the Western-Central heartland with Hindus forming 93.21% of the tribe. In almost every state, the percentage of Hindus among the tribals is far higher than the percentage of Hindus among the non-tribal population, so that the tribals are more emphatically Hindu than the non-tribals.

In the eastern heartland of Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, we find the first important Hindu Category Three religion, the Sarna religion. This is geographically centred in Jharkhand, mainly among some important tribes like the Santal, Munda, Oraon and Ho, and found in some significant numbers in many of the other Jharkhand tribes, with a spill over into neighbouring Orissa and West Bengal. But an examination of the figures (even taking into consideration the large scale conversions to Christianity) shows that Hinduism is still the predominant religion even among the tribals of the eastern heartland of India, certainly in Orissa and West Bengal:

STATE Total Tribal Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age of Others Total of H+C+O
Jharkhand 70,87,068 39.8 14.5 45.1 99.4
West Bengal 81,45,081 74.6 6.1 17.1 97.8
Orissa 44,06,794 88.2 7.4 4.2 99.8

The percentage of Hindus in the total population of the three states is as follows: Jharkhand 68.57%, Orissa 94.35%, and West Bengal 72.47%. In West Bengal, the percentage of Hindu Category One among the tribals is still more than the percentage of Hindu Category One in the non-tribal population, but in Orissa and Jharkhand (apart from the large scale Christian proselytization) it is less, because of the presence of the Sarna Hindu Category Three religion, the only such case in the whole of mainland India excluding the North East.

 VI. The North-East

Finally, we come to the last region of India, the North East, consisting of Assam and the six small states of Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. This is the most vulnerable part of India, connected to the rest of India only by a small strip of land in northern West Bengal to the north of Bangladesh, open to endless infiltration from Bangladesh, most vulnerable to the Chinese menace (China is already in occupation of a major chunk of Arunachal Pradesh), and the happiest hunting grounds in India for Christian conversion activity since the days of the British Raj – in fact more so since the British left, as the following statistics from the post-Independence Indian census for the percentage of the Christian population in at least five of the north eastern states shows:

STATE 1951 1961 1971 1981 2001
Manipur 11.84 19.49 26.03 29.68 34.04
Nagaland 46.05 52.98 66.76 80.21 89.96
Mizoram 83.81 86.97
Meghalaya 35.21 46.98 52.62 70.25
Arunachal Pr 0.79 4.32 18.72

[Earlier figures are not available for some of the states since the states came into existence after those dates]

The rise has been most phenomenal in Arunachal Pradesh, where the Christian percentage has grown from 0.79% in 1971 to 18.72% in 2001: this does not include the figures for crypto-Christians who are many in number in this state due to strong opposition from local tribals opposed to this massive proselytization. And in the only state, of these five, which consistently had a Hindu majority (of around 60%) from 1951 to 1981, Manipur, the Hindu percentage in 2001 was suddenly down to 46.01%. The census figures for 2011 are still not available, and there is no doubt that the percentage of Christians in all these states must have increased even more sharply in 2011, with Manipur rapidly hurtling towards becoming a Hindu-micro-minority state like the other four. But coming to the tribal population in these states, the following is the percentage of tribals in the total population of each of these states (2001):

STATE Total Population Tribal Population %age of Tribals in Total Population
Assam 266,55,968 33,08,570 12.4
Tripura 31,99,203 9,93,426 31.1
Meghalaya 23,18,822 19,92,862 85.9
Manipur 21,66,788 7,41,141 34.2
Nagaland 19,90,036 17,74,026 89.1
Arunachal Pr 10,97,968 7,05,158 64.2
Mizoram 8,88,573 8,39,310 94.5

Within the tribal population of each state, the following is the distribution of population by religion:

STATE %age of Hindus %age of Buddhists %age of Christians %age of Others Total of H+B+C+O
Assam 90.7 0.2 8.8 0.1 99.8
Tripura 80.1 9.6 10.0 99.7
Meghalaya 5.9 0.1 79.8 13.2 99.0
Manipur 1.0 96.8 1.6 99.4
Nagaland 98.5 98.5
Arunachal 13.1 11.7 26.5 47.2 98.5
Mizoram 8.3 90.5 98.8

It can be seen that there is a complete sweep of conversion to Christianity among the tribal populations of Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram: 96.8%, 98.5% and 90.5% respectively (the Chakma tribe of Mizoram alone representing a Buddhist survival of 8.3% in that state). In Meghalaya, in spite of an otherwise similar sweep (79.8% of the tribals), there is a residual survival of the original tribal religions among minor sections of the two main tribes in the state:

TRIBE %age of Hindus %age of Buddhists %age of Christians %age of Others Total of H+B+C+O
Khasi 1.11 0.12 80.74 17.91 99.88
Garo 0.73 0.06 91.49 7.67 99.95

In Arunachal Pradesh, there is an even bigger survival of the original tribal religion: Here we have the traditional Donyi Polo religion followed by almost 47.2% of the tribal population of the state, or 30.3% of the total population of the state. In Manipur, as we saw, there is a clean sweep of conversion to Christianity as in the case of Nagaland and Mizoram, with 96.8% of the tribals converted to Christianity. But, unlike Nagaland and Mizoram, where almost the entire populations are classified as tribal (89.1 and 94.5 respectively, the rest of the state population including emigrants from other neighbouring states and the rest of India), in Manipur only 34.2% of the population is classified as tribal: the major ethnic group in the state, the Meitei, constituting 51.04% of the population, is not counted as tribal. But it is among a section of the Meitei that we see a surviving tribal religion:

TRIBE? %age of Hindus %age of Buddhists %age of Christians %age of Others Total of H+B+C+O
Meitei 79.74 0.25 20.01 100.0

There are other miniscule populations among the tribes of these five states of the North East still practicing their ancestral religious or belief systems, but they have been reduced to a micro-minority by the time of the 2001 census itself, and may by now be almost completely decimated. In the two most populated states of the North East, Assam and Tripura, a majority of the tribals still count themselves as Hindu Category One: 90.7% and 80.1% respectively. Note that the percentage of Hindus in the total population of the two states is 64.89% and 85.63% respectively. In Assam at least, we see the phenomenon of a tribal population which is more emphatically Hindu than the general non-tribal population of the state.

In Assam (and Tripura), we find Christian converts mainly among the spill over of tribals from neighbouring states, like the Garo (Meghalaya), Khasi (Meghalaya), Hmar (Manipur), and various Naga (Nagaland), Mizo (Mizoram), and Kuki (Manipur) tribes. But, Hindu Category Three tribals are largely absent in Assam and Tripura. As to the rest of the tribes of Assam and Tripura, the following is the distribution of population by religion:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Buddhists %age of Christians Total of H+B+C
Bodo A 14,76,370 90.12 0.07 9.71 99.90
Tippera T 6,21,109 94.65 0.19 4.91 99.75
Karbi/Arleng A 6,00,111 87.14 11.61 98.75
Miri A 5,89,219 99.08 0.43 99.51
KachariSonwal A 3,93,397 98.81 0.06 0.76 99.63
Lalung/Tiwa A 3,09,000 98.55 0.15 1.16 99.86
Rabha A 3,03,644 93.28 6.69 99.97
Reang T 1,36,894 82.68 0.08 17.21 99.97
Chakma A, T 1,20,176 16.06 76.41 6.92 99.39
Dimasa A 90,006 98.18 0.24 0.89 99.31
Jamatia T 82,370 92.49 0.29 7.18 99.96
Deori A 54,230 99.62 0.24 99.86
Halam T 50,984 65.01 0.05 34.82 99.88
Barman A 25,569 93.51 6.30 99.81
Tripura Munda T 15.469 93.54 6.20 99.74
Mech A 11,788 98.97 0.16 0.81 99.94
Tripura Orang T 8.622 96.06 0.12 3.75 99.93
Hojai A 6.624 94.37 1.15 3.91 99.43

Even more interesting is the fact that certain important and well-known tribes of mainland India are native to Assam as well in large numbers, but they are not counted among the scheduled tribes in Assam. The following are their population figures by distribution of religion:

TRIBE States Total Population %age of Hindus %age of Christians %age of Others Total of H+B+C
Munda A 13,80,226 93.99 5.96 0.04 99.99
Santal A 10,06,397 90.88 6.72 2.40 100.00
Oraon A 6,47,904 94.05 5.84 0.11 100.00
Gond A 5,90,953 94.75 5.03 0.13 99.91
Bhumij A 2,03,901 98.02 1.88 0.02 99.92
Kharia A 1,87,908 98.70 1.25 0.05 100.00
KuiKhond A 58,025 95.58 4.38 0.04 100.00
Korwa A 43,087 99.17 0.83 0.00 100.00
Korku A 38,492 97.78 2.18 0.00 99.96
Ho A 37,034 95.46 4.48 0.06 100.00

The overwhelming majority of them are clearly Hindu, with only a small percentage (2.40%) of the Santals (24,122 out of 10,06,397Santals) declaring themselves as “Others” or Hindu Category Three. Therefore, even Assam is not an exception to the all India phenomenon: the overwhelming majority of the tribals are self-declared Hindu Category One, even more completely and emphatically than the non-tribal population.

To sum up, the tribal population of India is even more (if we may use such a term) “purely” Hindu than the non-tribal population. The tribals are Hindu Category One everywhere, except in a few cases. And all of these few cases of Hindu Category Three, except the biggest one of them all, are found in the forest and hill areas of the north-east. The only one further west, the biggest of the Hindu Category Three religions, Sarna, is centred in the forests of Jharkhand.

STATE Hindu Category Three Religion No. of Followers of the Religion
Jharkhand ++ Sarna 60,00,000++
Arunachal Pr Donyi Polo 3,32,835
Meghalaya Khasi 2,29,212
Manipur Meitei 2,21,275
Meghalaya Garo 59,050

The facts are crystal clear: except for followers of these five religions, all the tribal population of India (except converts to Christianity) consists overwhelmingly of Hindu Category One tribals. As the religious population figures of the 2011 Indian Census are still undisclosed, we do not know what the situation is today (2013) and what it will be at some point of time in the future. We do not know how far the efforts to break off the tribals from Hindu society, by converting them to Christianity or trying to convince them even otherwise that they are not Hindus, will be successful.

But the fact is that as of the data now available, they are full-fledged Hindus, self-declared, and any change in the situation can only be a change brought about by Goebbelsian and diabolical machinations, and can not represent the original situation. Yet the billion-dollar funded political and academic campaign to cut off the tribal population of India from the non-tribal population by branding the tribals as non-Hindu, often branding them with innocuous names like “animists”, is in full flow. One example will suffice:

The Wikipedia entry on the Karbi (Arleng) tribals of Assam shows a graph titled “Religion among Karbi”, which tells us that 84.64% of the Karbi follow “Traditional Beliefs”, and 15.00% follow “Christianity”. We are further told: “Most of the Karbis still practice their traditional belief system, which is animistic, called ‘HemphuMukrong’, However, there are also Karbi Christians (some 15% , according to the Census of India, 2011). The practitioners of traditional worship believe in reincarnation and honour the ancestors”. However, the census figures (for 2001 – how the person posting this entry claims to have got the religious population figures for 2011, not yet available anywhere, for this particular tribe, is a mystery) tell us that 87.14% (5,22,954 people) of the Karbi/Arleng of Assam (total population 6,00,111) are Hindu, 11.61% (69,645) are Christian, and 1.23% (7,390) follow “other” (i.e. non-Hindu-Buddhist-Sikh-Jain and non-Christian-Muslim-Parsi-Jew) religions. And these figures are faithfully reported in the data provided by the Joshua Project, whose aim is to give the genuine religious population figures for all the ethnic peoples of the world, so as to enable missionaries to formulate their strategies accordingly. The Wikipedia article, like articles in the Indian media or in books meant for consumption in India, obviously have different aims: the primary one being the old policy of “Divide and Conquer”.

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In Part I of “Are Indian Tribals ‘Hindus’?”, we have only examined the basic statistics to show that the Indian tribal population is Hindu, wholly Hindu, and nothing but Hindu – in fact more Hindu than the non-tribal population of India. The tribals themselves say so. We already pointed out that the three aims of this insidious propaganda is:

a) to tell the tribals that they are not Hindus and have no connections with the larger Hindu society around them,

b) to tell the world that the converted tribals are not Hindus in the first place, and so it is no business of the Hindus to interfere if the tribals are converted to Christianity, and

c) to tell posterity that Hinduism is as foreign a religion to India as Christianity, in the name of the Aryan invasion theory, as the tribals follow “pre-Aryan” religions while Hinduism is an “Aryan” religion brought by “Aryan invaders” from outside.

Now, we have the existing Hindu Category Three religions (Sarna, Donyi Polo, Khasi, Meitei, Garo, and possibly others practiced by more microscopic sections of other isolated tribes). We also have attempts by the missionary machinery to create new Hindu Category Three religions (in the name of “animism”, etc., as appellations for people who call themselves Hindu, as we saw in the above example of the Karbi tribe of Assam) on the principle that it is easier to target and swallow smaller entities. In the next part, we will examine the facts in full detail, to see whether the real or sought-to-be-created tribal religions are really non-Hindu in any sense of the term, or in any way closer to Christianity than to Hinduism.

To be continued

 

Shrikant Talageri

Shrikant Talageri is a scholar and acclaimed author of The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis, the seminal work on the Aryan Invasion debate. His latest work is "Rigveda And Avesta The Final Evidence."