Hundreds of Kashmiri Muslim traders who visit Leh town for business are living in fear, as the ultimatum given to them by the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) to leave by 14 September has ended. Most of the shops, tea stalls the ‘outsiders’ run stand closed on Friday.
The State government and police say they wouldn’t allow anyone to be a law unto themselves. Communal tension in the Leh town is, however, high as a Buddhist girl has eloped with a Muslim boy, triggering communal clashes.
The district administration of Leh held a peace meeting on Friday afternoon with three major religious groups in Leh town, LBA, Anjuman-e-Imamyia and Anjuman-e-Moin-ul-Islam. While the government is trying hard to bring the situation under control, tension is running high both in Kargil and Leh over this new communal divide.
The family of the girl who has allegedly fled with his boyfriend say that they were not being allowed to even speak to their daughter. This infuriated the LBA that, in the past week, held a public rally in the Leh town and asked the people from Kargil to leave the town by 14 September or face consequences. “Kargil Muslims cannot earn their livelihood in Leh and also snatch our girls,” LBA leaders said in the rally.
LBA activists said in the rally that more than 60,000 people, including those from Kargil and Kashmir, come to Leh during the tourist season and earn their bread and butter here. They blamed the religious organisations of Kargil for patronising and protecting criminal elements and boys who forced the Buddhist girls to marry them.
Soon after the threat issued by LBA, Kargil’s Muslim Organisations, especially the formidable Islamia School of Kargil, wrote to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti about the threats and asked for security and safety of all the Kargil families who are presently in Leh town.
The district authorities of Leh told Hindustan Samachar that they had taken all the precautionary measures and that they would not allow anyone to violate the law. However, according to Kargil businessmen and some of the businessmen from the rest of Kashmir, Chandu Market was closed on Friday as most of the shops and tea stalls on the main road in Leh belong to Muslims of Kargil and Kashmir. “We feel threatened and most of us are not coming out in the market”, Kargil businessmen told our news agency.
According to the police, the alleged inter-religious marriage created tension in the entire region. Police said that the girl’s family had approached them and registered complaint about their missing daughter. The law enforcement agency could finally trace the girl in Jammu and despatch a team to bring her back to Leh along with her brother.
However, when the police team from Leh reached on 8 September, they received a court order instructing the police not to harass the couple. The LBA and the family of the girl question if she left home of her own volition, why she cannot even talk to them.
Senior Superintendent of Police Uday Bhaskar said that Leh town was now flooded with tourists and they had taken all the measures to keep the situation under control.