The Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs has claimed the Hindu population in India is decreasing because “Hindus never convert people”.

Kiren Rijiju, tweeting on 13 February, also wrote that “minorities are flourishing”.

His comments were reported in several major Indian newspapers, including The Hindu and Hindustan Times.

He was referring to data from the 2011 census, which indicated that the Hindu share of the nation’s population had decreased to below 80%. According to data published by the government in August 2015, India’s total population was recorded as being 1.21 billion people in 2011, of which Hindus constituted 79.8%, Muslims 14.2%, Christians 2.3%, Sikh 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7% and Jain 0.4%.

However, last January the international working president for Vishwa Hindu Parishad said more than 500,000 Christians and 250,000 Muslims had reconverted to Hinduism in the past decade through its Ghar Wapsi, or “homecoming”, initiative.

“It is obvious that the Modi administration does not consider Hindu pressure on non-Hindus to return to Hinduism as conversion,” said Rolf Zeegers, analyst at Open Doors’ World Watch Research unit. “The well-known Ghar Wapsi campaign (ongoing since August 2014) has resulted in hundreds of people re-converting to Hinduism (sometimes under huge pressure); this is however not regarded as conversion, but rather as home-coming. In the eyes of radical Hindus, conversion is only in one direction – away from Hinduism. Such statements like the one made by Minister Rijiju only add to the already tense religious atmosphere. It is likely to stimulate more violence from Hindu radicals.”