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Tuesday, 13 November, 2007

Buddhists in Ladakh renounce family planning

Wary of rising Muslim population, Buddhist apex body in Ladakh urges community to produce more children

SRINAGAR: Buddhist leaders say their population is declining due the family planning norms adopted by its community, while the Muslim population was showing an increase because of their refusal to adopt these initiatives owing to their religious directives.
A new dimension to the embroil has been added by the recent whip issued by Buddhist leaders urging their community members to renounce family planning programmes and produce as many children possible, in order to undo the demographic changes being effected in the area.
Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), an apex body of the Buddhists, has also shot off a letter to the Jammu and Kashmir government asking it not to implement family planning programmes in the region. “The Ladakhi race has limited population in the country and there is apprehension of its extinction. Hence, you are requested not to apply small family norms in the district as a special case,” said Dr Sonam Dawa, president of Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) in a letter written to J&K’s minister of health and medical education Mangat Ram Sharma.
Dr Dawa cautioned the government about the family planning camps in the area. “In the recent past, there have been certain cases of public resentment during the family welfare camps in the area. So you are requested to direct the department concerned not to hold family planning camps in the district,” he said.
According to 2001 census, the population of Ladakh’s two districts-Kargil and Leh-was 2.36 lakhs. Muslims form the majority with 47.40 percent of the population and Buddhists are behind them with 45.90 percent. The growth of Muslims was also better at 31.52 percent against 29.97 percent for the Buddhists. Muslims are in majority in Kargil district while Leh is dominated by Buddhists.
“There have been many factors responsible for our dwindling population. We have been adhering to family planning norms with the result that our population has been declining, while Muslims do not adopt the directives,” said Dr Dawa. LBA has now asked all its monks to preach against family planning.
Muslims on the other hand, have rubbished claims that they were responsible for the dwindling population of Buddhists. “Many Muslims are adopting family planning norms. It is an individual decision and we cannot force anyone,” said Asraf Ali, president of Anjuman-e-Islamia, Leh.
Ali noted that Buddhists being more educated and more prosperous take up family planning because they want smaller families.