India's suicide rate shown to be highest among Christians and Dalits

(Photo: REUTERS / Stringer)India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) speaks with cardinal George Alencherry at an event organized by the Christian community to celebrate the beatification of two Indians by Pope Francis late last year, in New Delhi February 17, 2015. Modi vowed on Tuesday to protect all religious groups, an apparent response to a series of attacks on Christian institutions in New Delhi fuelling concerns that minorities are being targeted by Hindu zealots

A Christian in India is 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide as compared to a Hindu while indigenous people known as tribals and Dalits have some of the highest suicide rates among caste groups.

This was revealed to The India Express newspaper by the country's Home Ministry has revealed in response to a right to information it filed on religion and caste-based suicide data.

In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau, for the first time, collected data on suicides based on religion and caste groups, The India Express reported.

The date, which was to be published in 2015, was, however, never released by the Home Ministry.

The crime bureau records obtained by the newspaper show that Christians have the highest suicide rate at 17.4 percent, as compared to Hindus at 11.3 - while the national average stands at 10.6.

Muslims and Sikhs, at 7 per cent and 4.1 respectively, record the lowest rates. In this context, rate refers to the number of suicides per population of 100,000.

The newspaper cited former Kerala Director General (fire and rescue services) Siby Mathews, who has written a book on suicides.

He said, "My research shows that economic security is very closely associated with suicides. One meaning that could be arrived from the data is, perhaps, the minority is not finding expected opportunities to come up."

Among caste groups, Scheduled Tribes have the highest suicide rate at 10.4 followed by Dalits, who were once known as untouchables, at 9.4, according to the data.

Although the "general" category has a higher rate (13.6), it includes suicides by those from of all other religions as well.

India's 2011 Census data says Christians make up 2.3 per cent of India's population, but their share in suicides is 3.7 per cent.

That virtually translates into a gap of over 60 percent between Christian representation in the national population and in suicides.

The data showed Hindus, too, have a greater share among suicides (83 percent) than their representation in the population (79.8 percent), while the percentage of suicides among Muslims is much lower (9.2) compared to their share in population (14.2 percent).

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