The population of Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal has declined over the past decade while the population of Muslims and Christians marginally increased, according to the country’s latest census report.
Sanatan Dharma, Hindu is still the predominant religion followed in the country comprising 81.19 per cent of the total population, said the 2021 census report published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on June 3. Notably, during the 2011 population census, there were 81.3 per cent Hindus in the census report of 2011.
The followers of Hindu Dharma and Buddhism declined by 0.11 per cent and 0.79 per cent respectively over the past 10 years.
If we talk of numbers, as many as 2,36,77,744 people follow Hindu Dharma in Nepal. Buddhism is the second most followed religion in the country with 23,94,549 followers – 8.2 per cent of Nepal’s population. Islam is followed by 14,83,060 people and it’s the third most followed religion with 5.09 per cent of the total population.
As per the released data, the population of Hindus and Buddhists had declined over the past decade while the population of Muslims, Christians, and Kirats marginally increased.
The population of Islam, Kirat, and Christians increased by 0.69, 0.17 and 0.36 per cent respectively, according to the data.
As per the 2011 census, there were 9 per cent Buddhists, 4.4 per cent Muslims, 3.1 per cent Kiratis, and 0.1 per cent Christians in the Himalayan nation.
As per the new data, Christianity, the fifth largest religion in the country, is followed by 5,12,313 people or 1.76 per cent of the total population while the indigenous Kirat religion is the fourth largest religion with 3.17 per cent followers.
Organiser has been extensively reporting the rising conversion in Nepal, whether Christian or Islamic. Lesser cases have come to the fore as far as Islamic conversion is concerned but there has been rampant missionary conversion in the country. The preachers did not even spare the birthplace of Buddha for that matter.
As per this report published by Organiser last month, many tribes who converted come from the Dalit jati and they still (post-conversion) call themselves Dalit only. Missionaries especially from South Korea, have helped build one of the world’s fastest-growing Christian communities in Nepal. In the last two decades, as many as seventy churches were built in Nepal. mostly in Dhading district, two hours northwest of the capital Kathmandu. The latest data from the national Christian community survey says there are now 7,758 churches in the still overwhelmingly Hindu country.
As per this report published by Organiser two months ago, Miracle in the typical Christian missionaries’ style is happening in the erstwhile Hindu Kingdom of Nepal. The magic of this miracle embedded in the infamous aggressive proselytising has made Christianity the fastest-growing religion in this Himalayan country. From 458 Christians in 1961 to constitute around 1.4 per cent (2011 Census) till 2011 and now touching around 10 per cent of the total population (Federation of National Churches of Nepal), the number of people finding ‘new meaning’ to their lives by abandoning their traditional religions are growing rapidly.
Among the ten religions followed by the Nepalese, five minor religions include Prakriti, Bon, Jain, Bahai, and Sikh.
Notably, Nepal has an Anti-conversion law enacted in 2018, as per the law anyone convicted of encouraging someone to change their faith faces up to five years in jail.
In 1951 there were no Christians in Nepal and just 458 in 1961. But by 2011, there were nearly 376,000 and the latest census estimates the community is now around 545,000.
As far as the anti-conversion law is concerned it is only Christians who have been charged under the law, but no one has been convicted. Cases have either been thrown out due to a lack of evidence or defendants have been acquitted on appeal.
Nepalis have a total of 124 mother tongues, out of which Nepali is spoken by 44 per cent of the population followed by Maithali — at 11.05 per cent, and Bhojpuri by 6.24 per cent.
Notably, The growth rate of the population in the country is even lower than the global average of 1.01 per cent (2020). In fact, the rate of growth of the people in Nepal in 2021 is the lowest it has ever been since the country started taking the population census in 1911.
With the release of the data, the imbalance in population growth that occurred in the three ecological belts of the country—the Himalayan or mountainous region, the hills, and the flat Terai region bordering India—has alarmed the nation the most. With 54 per cent of Nepal’s population, the Terai or Madhesh area is the most populous of the nation’s three ecological regions. The hill region, home to close to 40% of the population, and the mountain region, home to 6% of the people, follow. Even the combined population of the mountainous and hilly regions (46%), which is fewer than that of the Terai (54%), is less than that of the Terai.
The seriousness of the situation caused by the depopulating mountains and the hills is well articulated by Tankamaya, the Deputy Chair of Chaubise Rural Municipality in the eastern hill region of Nepal. She said, “No matter what we do to keep people here, they just want to leave; it is becoming a national problem…We keep talking about rural development, but there is no one left to develop here. It hurts to see them abandon their ancestral land like this.”
The new census data for Nepal from 2021 is therefore eye-opening in a number of ways because it has brought to light several major issues like an ageing population, the depopulation of various mountain and hill regions, the overpopulation of the Terai region, flooding, and desertification of agricultural land. If the census results had included data on other significant factors like ethnicity, language, and religion, more insightful information were acquired.
Nepal conducts a population census every ten years but this time the results were delayed due to Covid-19.