19 March 2018 08:16 PM



New Fissures Crack Communal Amity in Ladakh, 3 Incidents in One Week


SRINAGAR: Communal tensions are on a rise following an inter-faith marriage that has driven a wedge between the Buddhists and the Muslims living in the arid Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.

At least three incidents of communal violence have been reported in a week, according to reports, even as the district administration is organising a meeting today between different groups involved in the crisis to restore normalcy.

The controversy erupted somewhere in May after news of a Buddhist girl converting to Islam and marrying a Muslim, spread in the Buddhist majority Leh district. The conversion is believed to have happened in 2015 and the couple have got married in 2016.

According to reports, the girl, Shifah (her new name), has filed two affidavits in the court, declaring that her conversion to Islam and her marriage were acts of her "own free will and consent”. As tensions grew, the couple approached the J&K high court in July, which ordered that the “petitioners shall not be harassed”.

However, the Ladakh Buddhist Association, which claims to be working to "safeguard the interests" of the Buddhists in Ladakh held a public rally in Leh earlier this month and asked the Muslims working there to leave and find employment somewhere else.

Vice-president of the association, PT Kunzang, said the girl must be allowed to speak to her parents, "As an adult, she should be given freedom to do what she wants. But why hasn't she spoken with her parents?" he asked.

Chief of J&K Women's Commission, Nayeema Mehjoor, told The Citizen that she spoke with the girl and she told her that she "converted to Islam and marriage into a Muslim family out of my own volition." The girl has also written to the J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

"The statement of LBA is false and concocted, an effort to suppress and threaten the rights of individual… I appeal not to let hatred and fear to win over love and compassion,” Shifah, who is married to Murtaza Agha, a resident of Drass in Kargil district, writes in her letter to the Chief Minister.

The LBA has, however, threatened the Muslims from Kargil to leave Leh and also written to the Chief Minister, stating that they have "repeatedly asked the Muslim community leaders… to sensitise their communities" on conversions and inter-faith marriages.

"Young girls are being lured by Muslim boys to marry and finally convert them to Muslim… they have to stay away from such wicked and depraved act which otherwise will lead to communal unrest, and the district administration will be solely responsible," the letter states.

The Leh administration has planned a meeting today with the LBA, Anjuman Imamiya and Anjuman Moin-Ul-Islam to restore normalcy, "The district admin is going to ensure that peace and communal harmony is restored at the earliest," Avnyl Lavasa, the new Deputy Commissioner of Leh, who took charge on Thursday, told The Citizen.