For long, societies are either described as a melting pot or a salad bowl. Melting pots are those where people from different backgrounds — race, religion and culture, blend into one, while in a salad bowl society, people from different backgrounds integrate while maintaining their separate identities. India, however, is none and is more like a ‘thali’, the US-based Pew Research Center’s study showed.

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What did the Pew study found out?

This study was Pew Research’s largest outside the US and involved 30,000 participants. Hindus make up 80% of India’s population, followed by Muslims (14%), Christians (2%), Sikhs (1.7%), Buddhists (1%) and Jains (0.4%). 

Here are some of the findings of the study:

*     84% of the participants said respect for other religions is an important aspect of their religion and of being an Indian.

*     91% of Indians said they’re free to practice their religion.

*     More than 66% of Hindus said they wanted to prevent interfaith marriages of both Hindu men and women.

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*     A larger share of Muslims felt the same way.

*     36% of Hindus said they didn’t want a Muslim neighbour.

*     64% of Hindus believe that being a Hindu is crucial for being an Indian.

*     53% of the participants said religious plurality benefits India.

*     97% of Indians believe in God.

*     80% of the people in different religions are certain that God exists.

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Shares beliefs across religions

*     77% of Hindus and a similar percentage of Muslims believe in karma.

*     81% of Hindus and 32% of Christians believe in the purifying power of the river Ganga, which is a belief in Hinduism.

*     In north India, 12% of Hindus, 10% of Sikhs and 37% of Muslims identify with Sufism, which is a mystical tradition most closely associated with Islam.

Similar and different

*     66% of Hindus see themselves as different from Muslims, and a roughly equal number of Muslims 

*     2/3rd of Jains and 50% of Sikhs feel they have a lot in common with Hindus.

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Discrimination against minorities

*     About a quarter of followers of any of the major faiths felt they were subjected to religious discrimination.

*     One in five Muslims living in north India, which is largely ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said they faced discrimination due to their religion.

*     65% of Indians believe religious violence is a big problem.

*     20% of Indians felt caste discrimination was widespread.

What does the study show?

Neha Sahgal, one of the lead authors of the study, has commented on the finding that although over 80% of Indians believed respect for other religions is crucial, yet a substantial number of them were opposed to inter-faith marriages and neighbours of other religions.

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  “This points to a unique understanding of plurality of Indian society – it is more like a thali ( in which different dishes are served on a single platter), rather than a melting pot,” Sahgal said, BBC reported.

Jonathan Evans, the second lead author of the study told BBC that it is “uncommon to see seemingly contradictory viewpoints in public opinion.”