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    Posted on 30 March 2012

    Housing census shows dramatic spurt in places of worship

    Experts attribute the rise to the increase in ‘sectarianism’, which leads people to build exclusive domains

    Riyaz Wani

    Photo: Faisal Khan

    Call it an indication of Kashmir turning more religious or an outcome of the growth of the new settlements, the number of places of worship in Jammu and Kashmir has risen by a staggering 53 per cent over the past decade, the new JK housing census has revealed. While in the 2001 census there were 32,025 places of worship in the state, the 2011 census has revised the number to 49,135.

    However, there is no religious break-up of this figure, so there is no way of comparing the relative growth of the places of worship of different religions in the state. J&K being India’s only Muslim majority state, it is being believed that the majority of the growth is taking place in the Muslim holy places.

    Chander Shekhar Sapru, joint director of the census department, said the growth of the places of worship in J&K was the highest in India. “While the national average in construction of shrines is 1 per cent of the total housing structures, J&K's average is 1.5,” Sapru said. However, Sapru said there was no data on the number of mosques, temples or on the places of worship of other religions in the state. Sapru's reasoning for this growth is the standard “people in the state are becoming more religious” theory.

    In India, the number of places of worship was 2,398,650 in 2001 but the 2011 census revealed that the number has grown to 3,013,140 showing an increase of around 25 per cent, way below the Kashmir average.

    This dramatic growth has confirmed an existing perception about the trend in the Valley. Gull Wani, a noted Kashmir analyst, attributes the spurt to the prevalence of the conflict situation in the state. “The conflict creates a need for the people to seek refuge in spirituality. Hence, the growing tendency to build religious places,” Wani told Tehelka.

    Wani also cited the indiscriminate growth of housing colonies and the extension of villages in the state. “This state has been in the throes of a construction boom over the past two decades. Colonies after new housing colonies have come up not only in the suburbs of Srinagar, but across towns and even in villages. And each new housing colony needs a new place of worship,” Wani said.

    Wani, however, blamed growing sectarianism in the state, which he said creates the need for the sects to build their exclusive domains.

    The 2011 census puts the total number of houses in the state at 36,03,632 of which around 304,000 are unoccupied. Incidentally, 64,000 of these vacant houses have been built in the last decade. Srinagar and Jammu city alone have added more than 47,000 vacant houses.

    Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

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    Posted on 30 March 2012



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