How many Bahá’is live in India?
Over a million?
The country with the most Bahá’ís is India, with over a million Bahá’ís. (BIC, 2017)
Over 2 million?
Today, over 2 million Baha’is representing the great diversity of the Indian nation live in every state of India in over 10,000 localities. (NSA of India, 2010)
Close to 2 million?
Barely 5 thousand?
So what do we make of all this?
The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) cites the World Christian Database (2005) and on 6 February 2017, I’ve received the following response to my inquiry via email:
Dear Mr. …,
Thank you for your interest in the work of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
The Center currently is engaged in an ongoing review of our figures for Baha’is worldwide. For 2015 we list the Baha’i population in India as slightly more than 2 million, or 0.15% of the national population (the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is in India reports a Baha’i population of “over 2 million”). We are aware, however, that others dispute that figure.
Census figures on religion, although often helpful, are not without problems at times. This is particularly true when respondents do not see their religion listed as one of the choices on the census form. In such cases it is not uncommon for respondents to pick one of the listed choices instead or to select “none”, thinking it means “none of the above”. Respondents can also feel pressured to select the majority religion of a country or area due to perceived (and sometimes real) threats of harm if they do not.
In fact, the CSGC’s figure for Christians in India—based on membership reports from Christian denominations and churches, interviews with persons knowledgable about Christianity in India, and other sources—is also much larger than that of the Indian Census.
The CSGC uses a variety of sources for its religion figures, including materials from religious bodies, censuses, scholarly works, media reports, and interviews with people who live in and/or are familiar with the demographics of religions in each country.
I hope this helps. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me.
Albert W. Hickman, MS, MAR
Senior Research Associate
Center for the Study of Global Christianity
So the ARDA figure comes from a Christian source that claims to have conducted their own research instead of merely regurgitating numbers from the Bahá’i community. Furthermore, there is also a significant difference between the Christian figures from the ARDA and 2011 national census. See details below.
27,819,588 (2011 National Census of India)
To conclude, the discrepancy between the Bahá’i figures is most likely not the result of deception but an imperfect census.