Zanskar Tense After 26 Buddhists Convert to Islam


Srinagar – Tension mounted in Zanskar Valley of Kargil district, when more than two dozen Buddhists accepted Islam on Monday amid sharp criticism from Buddhist Associations of Padum Leh and Zanskar.
Top police and district officials amid shutdown rushed to Padum, the Headquarter of Zanskar division to ascertain if it was a voluntary act or had occurred under duress.

Zanskar, some 464 kilometes from Srinagar is Buddhist majority area where only one thousand odd Muslims live out of total population of 25,000.
Highly placed sources said 26 Buddhists from 6 families embraced Islam in Jamia Masjid amid pro-Islam slogans in presence of Molvi Fayaz Ahmed and Syed Mohammad Shah.

Tension mounted in the area soon after the Muslims took out a procession with green Islamic flags in their hands carrying these ‘Buddhists’ on their shoulders. Out of six families five are from Padum while one is from Zangla.

Security was beefed up in whole Padum area after the procession as the authorities are apprehensive of violence. “Zanskar Buddhist Association (ZBA) has threatened us of dire consequences and they have warned of communal violence.

A letter was shot to us by ZBA, ordering us not to accept these Buddhist into our fold. We didn’t care of that letter and went ahead as all these Buddhist were keen to accept Islam and you know there is democracy in the country and everyone has right to adopt his religion of choice,” Fayaz Ahmed who runs Jamia Masjid sponsored committee, New Shining Star said.

He said that there is no force and no greed is involved whatsoever in these conversions.” You can ascertain this yourself. Top administrative officials talked to these ‘newly-entrants’ themselves and they were convinced that these people have voluntarily embraced Islam,” Fayaz said.

According to reports, all the 26 converted Muslims had told the police and administrative officials that they had embraced Islam voluntarily.

Refuting such claims, the General Secretary of Zanskar Buddhist Association, Janph Wongdous said they feel such people have been motivated.” We feel something fishy. How it is possible that 6 families at a time will shun their age old religion and that too in Buddhist majority populated area of Zanskar. Despite asking Muslims not to take them into their fold, they did and there is every possibility that communal violence may hit the area,” he warned.

Janph Wongdous confirmed that Zanskar Buddhist Associattion had written a letter to Muslim head in which the Association had asked them not to go for such conversions. “Though conversions have taken place now and they (Muslims) they didn’t give heed to our repeated requests. Buddhist population especially youth are furious,” he said.

Another former member of ZBA, Rigzin Dorjey said that it’s premature to say anything on this issue right now. “We are trying to ascertain facts and we are busy in doing so.’ He said.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kargil, Javid Ahmed Matoo declined to comment on the issue, however a top police official on condition of anonymity said that it was a voluntary act on part of these Buddhists. “These 26 Buddhists have embraced Islam without any compulsion and they have even given it in writing,” official said.

Meanwhile, Station House Officer, Padum, Mohammad Ramzan said that he is concerned with law and order problem. “Situation is so far under control and hopefully it will remain so.” He said and added that that nobody can force anybody.

One of the convert, Stenzing Chozng said that ZBA is making an issue out of no issue as the Buddhist Association knew it well that we have embraced Islam voluntarily and nobody has forced us. “Do you think we people are insane and we will come under pressure? The fact is that we accepted Islam by our heart and we will die as Muslims now,” he said.

A monk from Karsha Buddhist Monetary, pleading anonymity said that Buddhists in the region have forgotten the teachings of Lord Buddha.” They (Buddhists) prefer wine than visiting monasteries. Their source of income is wheat which they cultivate but instead of selling it they spent it to prepare ‘Chhung’ (desi wine). Look at Muslims of the region. They never spent money on wine and they are educated. Such things will happen till we (Buddhists) don’t change ourselves,” he said.

It’s not for the first time that Buddhists getting converted to Islam in Padum area of Zanskar. “Of course, this time the conversion number is pretty good. There are dozens of instances Buddhist girls getting married to Muslim youth and later on they converted to Islam. You will find dozens of children in Zanskar whose uncles are Muslims and maternal uncles are Buddhists. But it’s a fact no Muslim has ever get converted to Buddhism in Zanskar. Every time, these are Buddhist who gets converted voluntarily.” Farooq Ahmed, a Kashmiri shopkeeper in Zanskar said.

Meanwhile amid tense atmosphere, the meeting between ZBA and Muslim community was underway to maintain peace and order in the Valley. Police and administrative officials were trying hard to find an amicable solution to the problem.

Complete shutdown was being observed by Buddhists in Zanskar against the conversions.  

“Buddhist activists are roaming in vehicles forcing a shut down. They have forcibly closed down all the educational institutions, Government offices including J&K  Bank.  Police personnel are not present in large numbers and hence we feel insecure” said a local Muslim resident. CNS

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