India, recently became the fifth-largest global economy, has the Earth’s largest population below the age of 35, with considerable smartphone and social media penetration
Whole Numbers and Half Truths: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India by Rukmini S, a data journalist, challenges widely-held beliefs and debunks media coverage far removed from the data. Her account is contrary to the image many Indians have of themselves as a largely tolerant nation, peopled with mostly liberal citizens, who, despite great odds, adversity and backsliding, remain committed to the democratic, secular and pluralistic values of the Indian Constitution. Rukmini found that India is less committed to democratic principles, freedom of speech, free operation of the judiciary and the opposition, than most other countries.
On caste, the data reveals that Indian society continues to be steeped in casteism, where the banned practice of untouchability is still followed, not just in rural India, but in cities as well.
"...The organisation of Indian society as being extremely hostile to any inter-group mingling or relationship or communication of any sort. The majority of Indians in opinion polls say they are opposed to inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, large numbers of people say they do not have friends of another religion or caste, and a significant share of people, even in urban India, say that someone in their family practices untouchability...We are seeing laws being brought in to discourage inter-religious marriage. We are seeing violence against backwards castes. We are seeing a lot of violence against Muslims...We are seeing all sorts of criminalisation and intimidation around all sorts of mixing between religious groups. Places of worship that were shared between groups are being actively weaponised and polarised..."
"...Young people are saying they do not support inter-caste, inter-religious marriage to a greater degree than views expressed by their grandparents. They are not saying they have greater commitments to free speech or to secular values than older people..."
While there appears to be more latitude for women choosing their life partners, the data reveals that Indians believe that women should be subservient to their husbands and should not go out for paid work.
"...The overall national picture is bleak in terms of even having the ability to have any say on your marriage, to choose a partner, to be able to take any decision around the household purchase, to have any assets in your own name, to have any cash on hand, to be able to even go the doctor without permission — all of these numbers are pretty bleak, particularly in the north and centre of the country...Overall in the country, we have one of the lowest levels of female labour force participation of any country in the world. This is an indicator that has not risen but has fallen substantially. It is also extremely low for extremely well-educated and rich women..."
It is certainly worth thinking that if an important constitutional authority comes out with clear and resounding support of a position, can it change societal values significantly? It makes you think about what could be done if the courts came out strongly in support of interfaith relationships or other democratic principles. This was one of the areas where there was mass media support as well..."