As another agitation looms over Jammu and Kashmir over the alleged government-induced demographic change — through the issuance of identity certificates to the mostly Hindu West Pakistan refugees — Census figures show the overall religious make-up of the state remains almost exactly similar to what it was 50 years ago.
In 1961, Muslims, with a population of 24.32 lakh, constituted 68.31% of the state’s population of 35.60 lakh, while Hindus, numbering 10.13 lakh, made up 28.45%.
Half a century later, the Census of 2011 recorded the Muslim population at 85.67 lakh — again 68.31% of the total population of 125.41 lakh (1.25 crore) — and the Hindu population at 35.66 lakh (28.43% of the total).
The changes in demography are a contentious issue in Jammu and Kashmir. The separatists and the government have often engaged in divisive debates on J&K’s demographic profile, drawing sections of the population into agitations and street protests, and fanning fears that the state’s unique position under the Constitution is under threat.
The pre-Independence Census of 1941 recorded Muslims as constituting 72.41% of the population, and Hindus 25.01%. Thereafter, the proportion of Muslims in the state’s population fell gradually until 1981, when it bottomed at 64.19%, even as the Hindu population peaked at 32.24%.
After 1981, the proportion of Muslims in the population started to rise, touching 66.97% in 2001 and 68.31% in the following count in 2011.
Jammu and Kashmir originally had 14 districts — 6 each in the Kashmir and Jammu divisions, and 2 in Ladakh. Ten of these districts were Muslim-majority — 6 in Kashmir, 3 in Jammu and 1 in Ladakh. Three districts had a Hindu majority and 1 had a Buddhist majority.
In 2006, 8 new districts were created, taking the total number of districts to 22. Of these, 17 have a Muslim majority — 10 in Kashmir, 1 in Ladakh, 6 in Jammu.
Hindus are the majority community in 4 districts of the Jammu division; Buddhists are the majority in Leh.