India has over 33,000 atheists, Census 2011 data has revealed. The 33,304 listed in the report include 22,828 from rural and 10,476 from urban areas.
Maharashtra tops the list with 9,652 atheists, followed by Meghalaya (9,089) and Kerala (4,896). Delhi has 541 atheists. The Census 2011 data puts India's population at 1.2 billion.
Seven out of every 10 atheists live in rural India with nearly half of all atheists being women, the data shows, as per a report in the Hindustan Times.
In its first such listing, the Census department says only 0.0027 per cent of the population is atheist. This contradicts the report of the 2012 Global Religiosity Index which estimated that 3 per cent of Indians didnât believe in God.
According to a census official, nearly 2.9 million or 0.24 per cent of the population did not disclose their religion or got mixed up with other identities and they are listed under âreligion not statedâ category.
âWhat 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,â he said.
A former government official familiar with the census process, also pointed out that the questionnaires were usually filled on the basis of data provided by the head of the family and may not necessarily represent the views of the younger members of the family who might be inclined towards atheism.
(With IANS inputs)