A prominent Buddhist leader in Ladakh expressed his irritation last week about the fact that their population growth is lagging behind that of the Ladakhi Muslims.

The president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), Dr. Sonam Dawa, sent a letter to the State government of Jammu and Kashmir, of which Ladakh is a part, asking it to desist from population planning programs in the region. “The Ladakhi race has limited population in the country and there is apprehension of its extinction,” he asserted. He addressed his letter to the state minister of health and medical education, Mangat Ram Sharma. Earlier this year he wrote to the national government about the same issue.

He focused on family planning camps held in Ladakh, which he stated had aroused opposition in the past among the Buddhists. He asked the state government to not sponsor them again.

Dr. Dawa argued in his letter that the Buddhists have been adhering to family planning standards, which has resulted in a drop in their numbers compared to the Muslims. “Our population has been declining, while Muslims do not adopt the directives [of family planning],” he wrote. In addition, he indicated that he has asked Buddhist monks to preach against family planning, lest the Muslims gain a steadily growing population advantage.

Asraf Ali, president of Anjuman-e-Islamia, a Muslim group in Leh, denied the LBA assertions that Muslims are purposely trying to outstrip the Buddhist population. “Many Muslims are adopting family planning norms. It is an individual decision and we cannot force anyone,” he said. He added that the reason the Buddhist population is not growing as quickly as the Muslim is that the Buddhists are better educated, more prosperous, and thus more inclined to desire smaller families.

The 2001 census of India reported that Ladakh had 236,000 people, with 47.4 percent Muslim and 45.9 percent Buddhist. The Muslim population was reported to be growing slightly faster than the Buddhist.