New Delhi: As per 2011 census India had a population of 1.2 billion out of which 33,000 people declared themselves as atheists. The data released earlier this week showed nearly half of the atheists as women. And seven out of every 10 atheists live in rural India. This is the first time in recent years that census data in public domain puts a number on atheists, people who do not believe in the existence of God.
At 9,652, Maharashtra is home to the highest number of atheists, 71% of them live in the villages.
Meghalaya comes next with 9,089.
Kerala comprised 4,896 atheists in all, six times more than West Bengal’s 784.
Delhi had just 541.
Atheists are as few as 0.0027% of the total population.
A census official said there were many more nearly 2.9 million or 0.24% of the population who did not tell enumerators their religion or confused it with other identities. They are listed under the category “religion not stated”.
It is possible that some atheists who refused to answer the question on religion were bracketed in this category.
“What I can tell you is that there were quite a few people including dignitaries holding top posts in the government who did not record their religion in the census. They felt that their faith was a personal matter and did not want their actions to be seen through the prism of their faith,” he said.
The official refused to identify those public figures pointing that census information was confidential.
The census figures are also half of the 66,000 people from India who counted themselves as atheists in an online global census, each vote identified on the basis of an email address.
A former government official said, that the census questionaires were usually filled on the basis of information from the head of the family, and not the younger individuals who may lean towards atheism.