3 Years On ‘Social Boycott’ Continues to Torment Zanskar Muslims

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Zanskar: The social boycott enforced by extremist Buddhists  against Muslim community has made the lives of minority community in this remote mountainous Kashmir district a virtual hell. 

“It has been over three years since Buddhists on the directions of Zanskar Buddhist Association (ZBA) enforced social boycott against Muslims in the region and yet the State Government, including the district administration has taken no measures to give some kind of respite to the suffering Muslim community” residents said.

“We are on the verge of starvation. We seek intervention of Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to save our lives. The majority community (Buddhists) has snapped all links with us. Our lives and properties are at risk and we are feeling scared the way Buddhists have been given free hand in the region by the district administration,” a group of Muslims in Padum Zanskar told CNS.

Zanskar area has a population of 17,000 out of which all but 1000 are Muslims. Zanskar is a sub-division of Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir. The area witnessed violent clashes and tension when on 24 October 2012, 24 members from some Buddhist families embraced Islam reportedly at will. Shortly after the incident, ZBA issued a diktat asking Buddhist people to launch a social boycott of the Muslim community.

This reporter was aghast to see Buddhist drivers refusing to ferry school going Muslim kids in their vehicles. “I can’t ferry them to their school. There is social boycott and if I violate the diktat of ZBA, I will be punished,” said driver Skarma Lotus. 

He revealed that ZBA imposes a fine of Rs 10,000 for any ‘violation’. 

 Shakil, a Muslim Sumo driver said that he is not allowed to enter into any Buddhist village with any foreign tourist in his vehicle. “Last time I was attacked by some goons at Sunni Village when I dropped a foreign traveler there. This way our business has been hit and we are unable to earn our day’s living,” he said and alleged that neither district administration Kargil nor Police takes the matter seriously.

Some Muslims accused a nominated Councilor Phunchok Tashi and Executive Councilor Tsering Angdus of Ladakh Hill Development Council for all the mess. “These people instigate and foment trouble in the area. On the behest of these two people, ZBA issues new diktats on daily basis punishing those Buddhist who want to keep friendly terms with Muslims,” they said. “It were on the directions of these two Councilors that Buddhists who had taken Muslims shops on rent vacated those shops and they barred Buddhists from entering into any transactions with Muslims of the area,” they added.

 “They wanted to force us to vacate this place. The entire administration belongs to them and takes their side,” said another Muslim resident, insisting not to be identified for fear of reprisal.

 Accusing the district administration of acting as a mute spectator to the serious issue, Muslim community appealed the Chief Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to intervene into the matter. “Social boycott enforced by ZBA is affecting both the communities. Muslims being in minority suffer more as they don’t get labourers and other stuff freely. Besides, ZBA has controlled even the government vehicles and don’t allow Muslims to travel in them,” Ajay Kumar, a Nepali labour who has been visiting the area from past decade said.

When contacted Deputy Commissioner Kargil Hasan Khan said that administration tried it’s best to persuade ZBA to put an end to social boycott call but they didn’t agree. “We knew Muslims have been suffering. At the moment we are helpless and can’t do anything,” Khan said. CNS

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