So, how many Baha’is are there in India?

An image from the New Delhi Regional Conference

An image from the New Delhi Regional Conference

Good news! You have a wide choice.

You could go to the official Indian Baha’i website and be told:

We are the Bahá’ís of India – members of the largest Bahá’í Community of the world, numbering some 2.2 Million.
The Baha’is of India

Or you could check out a copy of the community’s 2006-2007 annual report and see that that the total number of Baha’i adults, youth and children was 86,612.

There is one very odd thing about the detailed population data on page 55. Many of the rows and columns simply don’t add up. Perhaps that page has errors in it, or perhaps it’s been tampered with. I guess it means that the 86,612 figure is suspect. Decide for yourself.

There is a third source for figures on the Baha’i population of India. The 1991 Indian census  (the most recent for which data at this level of detail is available) puts the Baha’i population at 5,575. [Update: the 2001 census figure is 11,325 according to footnote 2 in an academic paper.]

The important thing to remember is that a government census measures  something other than what an NSA membership roll measures. One measures self-declared religious belief. The other measures official membership in an incorporated body. So there are going to be discrepancies between the figures. Perhaps not this big, though.

But I’m being picky. The NSA apparently isn’t hung up on current numbers. As an institution, it will be:

  • Maintaining a vision of the potential size of future communities.  (page eight)

While we’re checking out the 2006-2007 annual report, here’s another interesting aspect.

The NSA spent 27% of its outgoings for the 2006-2007 year on legal expenses (Appendix, page “19”, which is un-numbered and very near the end of the document). Seems a lot.

I couldn’t find anything in the annual report to tell me what those expenses were. There was heaps of detail about a bunch of inconsequential things, but somehow information about the legal costs was left out. Maybe the costs were associated with this problem – Bahai trustees accused of embezzling funds.

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