J&K’s population conundrum: Myths and Realities

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The myriad narratives about the actual population of erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) together with religious, ethno-linguistic and non-native segments (non-permanent residents) in its demographic features beckon the unravelling of the truth.

The 2011 Census reveals 12541302 as the population of J&K (12267013 – J&K; 274289 – Ladakh). The percentage of population by religion – Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists and Others is 28.44%, 1.87%, 68.31%, 0.90%, and 0.47% respectively.

In Leh, Kargil and ten districts of the Kashmir valley the Hindu population is as under:-

Leh – 22882 i.e. 17.14%  of the total district population representing  21958 Male and  954 Female;

Kargil – 10341 i.e. 7.34% of the total district population representing 9985 Male and 356 Female;

In the ten districts of Kashmir Valley 165833+3000=168833 i.e. 2.54% of valley population with 153069 Male and 15764 Female .

The indigenous Hindu population living in the Kashmir valley during 2011 was stated to be around 3000 and in the two districts of Lakdakh the erstwhile permanent resident Kashmiri   population to the extent of 1060 who are quite identifiable in view of being in small numbers in the frontier districts.

The population by mother tongues like Kashmiri, Dogri and Punjabi at   national level is 6797587, 2596767, and 33124726  while as in J&K it is  6680837 (56.44%); 2513712 (21%) and 219193 (1.85%) respectively and in respect of remaining other linguistic cum ethnic groups namely  Gojri, Pahari,  Bhotia, Bhaderwahi, Purkhi, Shina, Gadhi, Pashto, Padri, Balti & Ladakhi,  it is 1135196 (9.59%),977860 (8.26%),107451, 98196, 92345, 32027, 24161, 17942, 17265, 12399 and 7638 respectively. The % viz total J&K population indicated for 05 main ethnic groups only.

The comparison between total population and population by mother-tongues pegs in a distinct category 605080 persons speaking such scheduled and non-scheduled languages as are neither recognised State languages under  repealed State Constitution nor actually prevalent spoken mother-tongues in J&K.

During census every person, who is stay put for more than six months at a particular place, is enumerated for the purposes of inclusion in the population register of the concerned Census sub-division and district. An example, there are 91733 and 7203 Kashmiris in the districts of Jammu and Udhampur; and 116750 in rest of the country which includes non-Hindu Kashmirs in small numbers from  Chenab Valley and other parts of J&K who figure in population registers of districts and States/UTs where they resided/ domiciled during 2011 census period. The  migrants out of them are recorded as electors in the electoral rolls of parliamentary and legislative assembly constituencies to which they belonged to before their migration from 1990 and onwards. On this matrix the outcome about the identity of who these 605080 persons could be and their district wise spread and its relevance for re -determining  the percentage of population by religion and the language, shall substantially change the demographic profile henceforth adopted by policy formulators and planners. Since the Hindu population in Ladakh and in the Kashmir valley works out to 202056, the majority from the remaining 403024 are likely in Jammu plains and lower Shiwaliks and others mostly non-Hindus in rest of the region as migrant workers also form a substantial component  from over six lakh persons found to be from rest of the country. Relevant to mention that the West Pakistan Refugees whose population, on the basis of Electoral Rolls 2019, is about one lakh, stand covered in population data of districts of their domicile in J&K. The wide gap in the Hindu population gender ratios in Ladakh and ten districts of Kashmir valley accompanied with their ethnic and linguistic status is itself an  answer about their domicile background. These are the people present in industrial hubs, serving employees of government of India  including other government  Controlled organisations and seasonal/migrant skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labourers having been in J&K during 2011 enumeration stage continuously at a stretch for periods beyond six months.

Should the position be as has been projected the re-working out  of data about  the population by religion and the language is inevitable as the extra persons non-conforming with the existing ethnic structure in J&K were neither permanent residents of J&K before 5 August 2019 nor are eligible for domicile status because absolute majority out of those in services move out to new places of postings on transfers and others mostly like their counterparts across the country have had always priority for their respective places of birth or domicile in respective states/union territories. However, under the changed legal regime the enabling scope to cover the exceptions could at some stage in future become a one way disproportionate influx in absence of a genuine framework aiming at thwarting the nefarious designs of ultra nationalists.

– The author is former a senior IAS officer and former chairman of J&K Public Service Commission; he can be reached at aaluzdeva_221256 @com

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