Christians in India

Living on the margins with a diverse and controversial past

Authored by: John C. B. Webster

Routledge Handbook of Contemporary India

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415738651
eBook ISBN: 9781315682570
Adobe ISBN: 9781317403586


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In 2001 the Census of India recorded just over 24 million Christians. Christians were India’s second largest religious minority with 2.3 per cent of the population, well behind the Muslims (12.4 per cent) but ahead of the Sikhs (1.9 per cent), Buddhists (0.8 per cent), and Jains (0.4 per cent) (Census of India 2001: xxvii–xxviii). This Christian minority was distributed very unevenly throughout the country. In the hill states of Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya in northeast India, Christians comprised 90 per cent, 87 per cent, and 70.3 per cent of the population respectively, whereas in each of four north Indian states they were a mere 0.1 per cent of the population. The largest number of Christians was in the south Indian states of Kerala, with over 6 million, and Tamil Nadu, with close to 4 million (Census of India 2001: xxix–xxxiii). While these figures have been contested (Frykenberg 2008: vii), they do show how difficult it is to generalize about Christians in India because their regional histories have been so different. In order to place their present situation in context it is therefore necessary to provide some historical background.

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