On June 3, the Government of Nepal released caste, ethnicity and language stats based on Census 2021. As per the data provided by the Government of Nepal, Islam and Christianity are on the rise in the country. On the other hand, the population of Hindus, which is the predominant religion in the country, and Buddhists, have declined. The total population of the country stands at 29 million with an absent population of 2.2 million.
As per the latest census report published by the Central Bureau of Statistics, 81.19 per cent of the total population follows Hinduism. Buddhism, the second most followed religion in Nepal, is followed by 8.2 per cent population. Followers of Hinduism have declined by 0.11 per cent and followers of Buddhism have declined by 0.79 per cent in the country over the past 10 years.
In the 2011 census, the government noted that 81.3 per cent of the population of the country followed Hinduism, 9 per cent Buddhism, 4.4 per cent Islam and 0.1 per cent Christianity. However, in the latest census, Islam and Christianity are now followed by 5.09 per cent and 1.76 per cent respectively. Kirats have also seen a rise of 0.36 per cent in the latest census and stand at 3.17 per cent of the total population.
The government also released data on the languages spoken in the country. There are 124 mother tongues spoken in Nepal out of which 44 per cent speak Nepali followed by 11.05 per cent Maithali and 6.24 per cent Bhojpuri. Other popular languages include Tharu (5.88 per cent) and Tamang (4.88 per cent).
Nepal conducts a census every 10 years and it was scheduled for 2021. However, it was delayed due to an increase in Covid-19 cases across the country.
Missionaries converting Hindus in Nepal at a rampant pace
In January 2023, OpIndia reported that the Christian population has possibly increased by 68 per cent in Nepal in less than a decade, thanks to Christian missionaries, especially from South Korea. A report by BBC titled ‘Christian missionaries target birthplace of Buddha in Nepal’ explained how South Korea, in particular, has been sending a tsunami of evangelists to Nepal. As per the report, Nepal had 3,76,000 Christians in 2011 (census numbers), which has increased to approx 5,45,000 now, a jump of 68 per cent. As per the latest census, the number stood at 5,12,313 which is fairly close to the estimate.
The rapid rise of Islam in Nepal
In September 2022, OpIndia did an exclusive series on the demographic change on the borders of Nepal. It was in sync with the demographic change on India’s side where a number of mosques and madrasas mushrooms in the border areas. OpIndia’s team visited Nepal and found that in the last 20 years, the Muslim population in the country doubled from 4 per cent to 9 per cent. It may double in the coming 20 years. Furthermore, demographic change is a phenomenon not limited to the Indo-Nepal border regions only, but the demographics in the hilly regions of Nepal are also changing very rapidly.
Nepal’s MP Abhishek Pratap Shah highlighted the problem of Rohingya Muslims in Nepal. He said, “A large number of Rohingyas have infiltrated the northern areas of Nepal while speaking to our reporters. This infiltration took place because the appearance of Rohingyas is slightly similar to the residents of northern Nepal.” Notably, Pakistan’s ISI was reportedly helping in the demographic change in the country. Shah added, “Pakistani intelligence agency ISI has been active in Nepal for a long time. ISI not only promotes cross-border terrorism but is also running illicit businesses like fake currency notes.”