India religion census
Nearly 80% of Indian population identified themselves as Hindus Jayanta Shaw/Reuters

India has just about 33,000 atheists out of 1.21 billion people, the latest census figures show. According to data based on the 2011 census released by the government, atheists constitute a mere 0.0027% of the population.

Though it has been stated that many Indians may not be comfortable with declaring their faith, the minuscule number of atheists is considered noteworthy. The census shows nearly half of the atheists are women. The state of Maharashtra has the maximum number of atheists followed by Meghalaya and Kerala.

Up to seven out of every 10 atheists are found to be living in the rural areas of the world's second-most populous country. The once-in-a-decade survey was conducted in 2011 but the results have been released periodically over the years. It says that "only a handful claim to be atheist". In 2012, the Global Religiosity Index estimated nearly 3% of Indians could be atheists.

"What I can tell you is that there were quite a few people including dignitaries holding top posts in the government who did not record their religion in the census. They felt that their faith was a personal matter and did not want their actions to be seen through the prism of their faith," a census official told the Hindustan Times.

There was a separate category called "religion not stated" in which non-believers are suspected to have fallen under. This category has been listed with nearly 2.9 million people in India, a secular state. Close to 80% of the entire population have mentioned they are Hindus while Muslims are second with 14.23%.