August 2019 News

Kashmir: Curious Case Of Demographic Realities And Perceptions

18 August 2019
India Today
Prabhash K. Dutta

New Delhi: Demography of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly of the Valley, has been a subject of debate on social media for the past few weeks. This comes from abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir by the Narendra Modi government on August 5. Announcing the government's decision, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had then said that it will allow outsiders to invest in property in Jammu and Kashmir. A 1927 law, promulgated by the king of Jammu and Kashmir and subsequently continued through Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, denied outsiders right to own property in Jammu and Kashmir. It also stripped a Kashmiri woman of right to property if she married a person from outside the state. This law was apparently brought in to protect the demographic identity of Jammu and Kashmir. Demography of Jammu and Kashmir has, however, undergone changes on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC). The overall population composition along religious lines has remained constant except some periodic fluctuations. Demography through Censuses According to the 1901 Census, Muslims formed 74.16 per cent of Jammu and Kashmir population. They were followed by Hindus - 23.72 per cent, Sikhs and Buddhists. Hindu population was concentrated mainly in the Jammu region, where they formed a little less than 50 per cent of population. In the Kashmir Valley, Muslims formed 93.6 per cent of population while Hindus were '524 in every 10,000 of the population' meaning 5.24 per cent. The 1911 Census put the Muslim population at 75.94 per cent. Their population share remained almost constant over the next three decades. In the last Census of 1941 before the British left India, the Muslim population was 95.97 per cent. The population share of Hindus dropped a little from 22.06 per cent in 1911 to 20.48. Shares of Sikhs and Buddhists in overall population increased marginally. According to 1961 Census - the first in the state after Partition, Muslims constituted 68.3 per cent of Jammu and Kashmir's population. Hindus formed 28.45 per cent. Kashmir, exclusively for Muslims? On a macro level, the composition of the state's population was the same in 2011 Census - Muslims comprised 68.34 per cent while Hindus formed 28.43 per cent. But at the micro level, demographic equation changed during this period. According to the official website of Jammu and Kashmir government, Muslims form 97 per cent of population in Kashmir Valley. Hindus are about two per cent and a large majority of them are Megh Bhagats. In Jammu, Hindus constitute 65 per cent of the population, Muslims 31 per cent and Sikhs 4 per cent. In Ladakh, Buddhists constitute about 46 per cent and rest of the population is largely Muslim. Kashmiri Pandits, unique to the Valley were a dominant group in the state until jihadi terrorism surfaced in the state in 1989-90 and forced them out. It was a strategic move to make Kashmir Valley exclusive for Muslims as Article 35A prevented migration to Valley. The official website of Jammu and Kashmir puts different estimates of Kashmiri Pandits who were driven out of Kashmir by the terrorists - 1,60,000 to 3,00,000. Many Sikh families too fled the Kashmir Valley during the exodus of Hindus. How Pakistan changed demography of PoK On the other side of the Line of Control (LoC), the demographic change has been more pronounced. The composition of population remained constant till 1970 but thereafter Pakistan made deliberate attempt to change the demography of Gilgit, Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Gilgit, Baltistan and PoK were Shia-dominated regions, where people spoke their native languages. Pakistan encouraged Sunnis - Urdu and Punjabi speakers - to settle in Gilgit, Baltistan and PoK. They were offered homes and jobs to settle in these regions. The effect is that PoK is today dominated by Urdu and Punjabi speaking Sunni Muslims. Urdu is the main language in both Gilgit and Baltistan and the Sunnis dominate Gilgit even though Baltistan has managed to maintain Shia dominance. This is in sharp contrast to the Indian side of LoC, where Shia and Sunni Muslims have largely maintained their respective share in population. This uniqueness of Shia-Sunni co-existence on this side of Kashmir Valley was challenged by Pakistan when it exported jihadi terrorism to the state in late 1980s and has continued till date. Current status On this side of the LoC, Jammu and Kashmir originally had 14 districts. Kashmir and Jammu divisions had six each while the remaining two were in Ladakh. All six in Kashmir, three in Jammu and one (Kargil) in Ladakh were Muslim-majority districts. The other three districts of Jammu had Hindus as majority population. The other Ladakh district - Leh - was a Buddhist-majority place. In 2006, eight new districts were created in Jammu and Kashmir taking the total number to 22. Now, the state has 17 Muslim majority districts - 10 of which are in Kashmir, six in Jammu and one in Ladakh. Of the remaining five districts, four - in Jammu region - are Hindu majority districts. Leh remains the Buddhist majority district. Under the reorganisation bill passed by Parliament earlier this month, Ladakh - comprising the districts of Kargil and Leh - becomes a Union Territory. The 20 other districts will form another Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The plan will come into effect on October 31.

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