A Buddhist woman from Ladakh marrying a Muslim man from Kargil has erupted in social tension with the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) threatening communal unrest if the woman is not ‘brought back’. The Association has written to the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti for annulment of the marriage between the 30 year old Shifah, earlier known as Stanzin Saldon, and her 32 year old husband Murtaza Aga. Shifah had converted to Islam in 2015, and then only got married to Aga, an engineer.
Though Shafiah herself had written to Jammu and Kashmir chief minister about her having married Aga as they had fallen in love while working at a Delhi based NGO, the Ladakh Buddhist Association insists that her consent was obtained under pressure.
Shafiah, in her letter to the CM, said:
The statement of LBA is false and concocted, an effort to suppress and threaten the rights of individual… I appeal not to let hatred and fear to win over love and compassion.
She also said that her decision to convert to Islam was her spiritual choice that has nothing to do with her marriage.
As per details with Nayeema Mahajoor, chairperson state women’s commission, Shifah had solemnized the marriage in Bangalore in 2016 after converting to Islam in 2015.
Shafiah has also recorded her statement about her getting married Aga with consent before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the court has directed state authorities about ensuring that the couple is not harrassed. PT Kunzang, a Ladakh Buddhist Association member says that it was the state government’s way of suppressing the rights of the minorities in the state.
The feeling among Buddhists, who constitute 51 % of Ladakh (Muslimsare 49%) is that the state government is consistently ignoring the growing instances of conversion of Buddhist women to Islam, which was ignoring the larger implication of ethnic cleansing of Buddhists from an otherwise predominantly Muslim state.
Another member of the Buddhist Association says that Muslim lads entice Ladakhi women posing as Buddhists, only to divulge their proper identities after marriage. They are also pressurized by their husbands to make statements in favor of their marriages.
“More than 45 Buddhist women have been converted to Islam after getting married to Muslim men. Then a claim is made that they had converted their religion out of free will,” says Kunzang.
It is to be noted that Ladakh comprises of two districts, Leh and Kargil, which holds a total of population of about 2,74,000. Majority of the population in Leh is Buddhist while that in Kargil is Muslim.
However, according to Muslims, the conversions are not one-sided: many Muslim women too have converted to Buddhism.
To resolve this growing feud between the state government and the Ladakh Buddhist Association, Kunzang has decided to approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprise him about their problem.