SRINAGAR: The Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) is up in arms against the PDP-BJP government in Jammu & Kashmir and has decided to approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the growing feud between Buddhists and Muslims. The discord appears to have intensified after a 30-year-old Buddhist woman married a 32-year-old Shia man last year after converting to Islam.
Top LBA official P T Kunzang told TOI that a Buddhist delegation has been seeking appointment with the PM to apprise him about the situation, but is not getting an audience with him.
The dominant feeling among the Buddhists here, who comprise a thin majority — around 51% of Ladakh’s population to 49% Muslims — is that the state machinery is consistently ignoring instances of conversion of Buddhist girls to Islam through wedlock.
Murtaza Agha, 32, of Drass in Kargil, married Buddhist girl, who changed her name to Shifah after conversion, sometime in 2016. While Shifah wrote to Mehbooba stating that she had married Murtaza of her own volition as they had fallen in love while working in a Delhi-based NGO, the Buddhist association stresses that her consent was obtained under duress.
According to details available with Nayeema Mahajoor, chairperson of the state women’s commission, Shifah had solemnized the marriage in Bangalore in 2016 after converting to Islam in 2015.
Meanwhile, the J&K high court has directed authorities not to harass the couple following a statement by the Buddhist woman before the court. However, Kunzang alleged that the government was cleansing the state of its Buddhists. “We will fight against this till the last drop of our blood,” he said.
Young Buddhist girls, another Ladakhi official said, were being lured by Muslims in various parts of the region by posing as Buddhists. However, girls learn after marriage that they’ve married Muslims, the official said.
Since 2003, more than 45 girls have married Muslim boys and claim to have done so of their own free will. “They give such statements under threat,” Kunzang alleged.
Contesting the narrative, Shifah and Murtaza, stationed at an unknown place in Srinagar, deposed before the women’s commission that Shifa had converted t Islam in April 2015 at Kammanahalli in Karnataka. In support of her argument, the girl, whose Buddhist name was Saldon, forwarded an affidavit executed in Karnataka to that effect.
Shifah wrote in an affidavit in Srinagar that she had exercised her choice in marrying Murtaza on July 7. Even the high court had passed an order saying the petitioner “shall not be harassed”.
Ladakh comprises two districts – Leh and Kargil – with a total of population of about 2,74,000. Nearly 49% of them are Muslims. However, according to Muslims, the conversions are not one-sided: many Muslim women too have converted to Buddhism.
In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the LBA to call for social and economic boycott of Muslims, which was lifted in 1992.
(This article was originally published in The Times of India)