Muslims in Zanaskar region of Ladakh region are facing starvation due to a social boycott enforced by majority community of Buddhists three years ago.
The fresh appeals for help have fallen flat with the district administration of the mountainous region in Karil area of the province saying they are helpless.
The Buddhists, on the directions of Zanskar Buddhist Association (ZBA), enforced social boycott against Muslims three years ago after two dozen members of the majority community embraced Islam.
“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,” a group of Muslims in Padum Zanskar told Srinagar-based news agency CNS.
They said their lives and properties are at risk and that they are feeling scared as the Buddhists “have been given free hand by the district administration.”
There are around a thousand Sunni Muslims who live in Zanskar.
Violent clashes erupted in the region on 24 October 2012 after 24 members from some Buddhist families embraced Islam at will.
Shortly after the incident, ZBA issued a diktat asking Buddhist people to snap ties with the Muslims.
Buddhist drivers refuse to even 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 order of ZBA, I will be punished,” said a Buddhist driver Skarma Lotus.
He revealed that ZBA imposes a fine of Rs 10,000 for any ‘violation’.
Shakil, a Muslim cab driver, said 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 living has been affected and we are unable to earn our day’s living,” he said and alleged that neither district administration Kargil nor the police have been taking the matter seriously.
Some Muslims even accused a nominated Councilor Phunchok Tashi and Executive Councilor Tsering Angdus of Ladakh Hill Development Council for 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 Buddhists who want to keep friendly terms with Muslims,” they said.
“It was on the directions of these two Councilors that Buddhists who had taken Muslim shops on rent vacated 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, Muslims 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 told CNS.
Deputy Commissioner Kargil Hasan Khan said that administration tried its best to persuade the ZBA to put an end to social boycott but they didn’t agree.
“We know Muslims have been suffering. At the moment we are helpless and can’t do anything,” Khan said.