CNBC-TV18 shares incorrect data on religious demographic composition in Assam

The exclusion of a staggering number of 40 lakh people from Assam’s final draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) has led to sharp reactions across the country. Even though the document, which is a list of Indian citizens in Assam is at the draft stage and the final status of the missing names is yet to be ascertained and finalised, it has triggered misinformation and fear-mongering. In an attempt to explain the changing demographic pattern of Assam, business news channel CNBC – TV18 shared an infographic stating “With the #NRC leaving out 40 lakh people from the final draft, take a quick look at the changing religious & language composition in Assam”. The infographic shows a radical change in the Hindu and Muslim population over the last 10 years raising the question “Illegal immigrants to blame?” So, has the percentage of Hindus in Assam fallen from 80.5% to 61.47% as claimed by CNBC – TV 18 ? Consequently, has the population of Muslims risen from 13.4% in 2001 to 34.22% in 2011?

Claim

CNBC-TV18 has now deleted the tweet, but the archive can be accessed here.

Reality

Unfortunately the infographic published by CNBC – TV 18 does not pass the most basic of fact checks. The demographic pattern of Assam according to 2001 and 2011 census is as follows:

AssamCensus 2001Census 2011
Hindu17,296,455 19,180,759
Muslim8,240,61110,679,345
Total26,655,52831,205,576

 

If we convert the above into percentages, in the 2001 census, the population of Hindus was 64.89% and not 80.5% as projected by CNBC – TV 18. This percentage stands at 61.47% in 2011. The percentage of Muslims in 2001 was 30.91% and not 13.4% as misrepresented by CNBC – TV 18. The percentage stands at 34.22% in 2011.

Source: Census 2001, Census 2011

It appears that CNBC – TV 18 has presented the All India data on religions in 2001 as that of Assam. This may have been an inadvertent error and it is surprising that the glaring figures went past editorial checks, since misinformation of this nature is communally sensitive. The damage was done, as CNBC-TV18’s infographic was used to claim that the Muslim population in the state has trebled in a decade at the expense of the Hindu population in Assam.

There is an attempt in multiple quarters to build the narrative of declaring 40 lakh people as illegal migrants and CNBC – TV 18 has knowingly or unknowingly supported it using incorrect data. To allay fears and to address rumor-mongering on the issue, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had tweeted that “I want to emphatically say that this is only a draft and not the Final NRC. Everyone will have the opportunity to file Claims / Objections as per provision in the law. Only after the disposal of claims and objections, the Final NRC will be published” . A similar appeal was tweeted by Congress MP from Assam, “My humble appeal to all media channels today is be sensitive regarding the draft list of NRC in Assam.”

CNBC-TV18 clarifies

The channel later clarified via a tweet almost 24 hours after it was pointed out, that it erroneously compared the 2001 all-India population data with 2011 census data for Assam and expressed regret for the error.

It is imperative for media to play a responsible role in reporting the NRC exercise. Any data shared by media on such a sensitive issue which has the potential to foster a communal divide must be cross-checked before putting it out in the public sphere.

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