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Neha Sahgal, Associate Director, Pew Research Center walks us through some of the less discussed findings of the Pew Research Center survey of religion across India that has been subject to many analyses, opinion pieces and discussions in formal and informal settings. In this episode of BIC Talks, Impact Investor and co-founder of Bangalore Literature Festival, Srikrishna Ramamoorthy engages Neha in a conversation about what went into this major undertaking.
The study, which was based on nearly 30,000 face-to-face interviews of adults conducted in 17 languages between late 2019 and early 2020 (before the COVID-19 pandemic), explores the role of religion in Indian public life. The study is part of a larger effort by Pew Research Center to understand religious change and its impact on societies around the world.
The nationally representative study, Pew Research Center’s biggest single-country survey outside of the United States to date, provides insights into the experiences and attitudes not only of Hindus and Muslims, but also of Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs and Jains living in India.
The new report, based on the survey’s findings, examines religious identity, beliefs and practices; views on Indian national identity; caste; experiences with discrimination; religious conversion; and the connection between economic development and religious observance.
Some of the key questions the survey set out to explore include: How do Indians feel about living in such a religiously diverse society? What are the dynamics among India’s various religious groups in both public and private life? And in a democracy with a large Hindu majority, how do Indians view the relationship between Hindu identity and Indian identity?
More than 70 years after India became free from colonial rule, Indians generally feel their country has lived up to one of its post-independence ideals: a society where followers of many religions can live and practice freely.
According to the findings of the study, Indians see religious tolerance as a central part of who they are as a nation. Across the major religious groups, most people say it is very important to respect all religions to be “truly Indian.” And tolerance is a religious as well as civic value: Indians are united in the view that respecting other religions is a very important part of what it means to be a member of their own religious community.
An earlier presentation of findings and panel discussion was held on BIC Streams – it can be viewed here.
Dr. Neha Sahgal is associate director of research at Pew Research Center, specializing in international polling on religion. Sahgal is involved in all aspects of survey research, including designing the questionnaire, monitoring field work, evaluating data quality and analyzing results. She is an author of studies on the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims around the world, Christian-Muslim relations in sub-Saharan Africa, religion in Latin America, religious divisions in Israel, religion and national identity in Central and Eastern Europe and the role of religion in Western Europe.
Sahgal has been invited to speak about the project’s research at universities, religious organizations and government agencies such as the U.S. Department of State and the European Union. She also talks about the Center’s findings in international print and broadcast media.
Before joining the Pew Research Center, Sahgal worked at The Asia Foundation in San Francisco. She received her doctorate in government and politics, with a concentration in the comparative politics of the Middle East and South Asia, from The University of Maryland in 2008.
Srikrishna Ramamoorthy is a venture capital investor investing in early stage start-ups that create large scale social impact and co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival. His past experience is in consulting and implementation with organizations that improve the lives of people at the ‘Base of the Pyramid’. Passionate about travel, books, Indian classical music and radio, Srikrishna has hosted a daily show on India’s first and only wellness and lifestyle radio station.