The major religious groups (followed by their approximate portion of the total population; 2001 census) are Hindus (82 per cent), Muslims (12.1 per cent), Christians (2.3 per cent), and Sikhs (1.94 per cent). Other important religious minorities are Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis. The rise of religious nationalism and fundamentalism in India from the 1980s onwards has increased political and social tensions in some areas, and at times—such as the 1992 and 1993 riots in Punjab and elsewhere—has erupted into violence.
The Hindutva movement, demanding a Hindu India, has grown significantly in strength. It is represented by the group of organizations collectively known as the Sangh Parivar, including the staunchly Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the ultra-extremist Shiv Sena. The rise to power of the parliamentary wing of the movement, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in recent years, albeit as leader of a wide-ranging coalition called the National Democratic Alliance, has increased the influence of Hindutva ideology. The rise of Hindutva has raised serious concerns regarding the future of the secular India established under Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India.
Around 387 languages are spoken in India, where the principal official language is Hindi. Twenty-one other languages hold official status in their local states (Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Meithei, Nepali, Oriya, Eastern Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.
As well as Hindi, English is recognized as having associate official status, for use in official proceedings such as parliament (although only the well-educated have fluency in it). Hindi, an Indo-Iranian language written in the Devanagari script, is spoken by about half the population mainly in the northern states.
Of the other official languages, the following are the most widespread: Bengali (69.5 million), Telugu (66 million), Marathi (62.4 million), Tamil (53 million), and Urdu (43.4 million). Sanskrit is the least known, with just over 50,000 mother-tongue speakers according to the 1991 census.
The many other languages spoken in India come from the Austro-Asiatic, Sino-Tibetan, Dravidian, Indo-Iranian, and Tai-Kadai language families. Their speakers number anything from a few thousand to several million. The most widely spoken are Maithili (22 million), Bhojpuri (24,544,000), Awadhi (20 million), and Haryanvi (13 million). "India" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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