A protester at a public rally in Leh in March 2024. Buddhists and Muslims in Leh and Kargil have come together, burying old grievances, to stand against the BJP government and demand safeguards for jobs, land, housing and more
A protester at a public rally in Leh in March 2024. Buddhists and Muslims in Leh and Kargil have come together, burying old grievances, to stand against the BJP government and demand safeguards for jobs, land, housing and more

Ladakh’s resentment of New Delhi has overridden old Buddhist–Muslim acrimony

After the revocation of Article 370, Buddhist-majority Leh and Muslim-majority Kargil have united in protest against the BJP and the Modi government, demanding statehood for Ladakh and Sixth Schedule protections

ON 24 SEPTEMBER 2012, 26 people from six Buddhist families converted to Islam in the Zanskar valley in Ladakh, in India’s far north. The converts were from oppressed castes and wanted to break free from the discrimination that they experienced daily. The local market was filled with Muslims celebrating the event. Their jubilation made the Buddhists in the Zanskar valley angry.

In the aftermath of the celebrations, Buddhists forced a shutdown of the market. They were led by the Zanskar Buddhist Association (ZBA), which wrote to local Muslim leaders threatening further protests if conversions did not stop. The ZBA expressed scepticism that such a large number of conversions could have happened at once with the free agreement of the converts. There were whispers about coercion, which the converts and Muslim community leaders denied. Tensions built up until a mod of Buddhists attacked the Muslims, leaving dozens of people injured. Muslim houses were damaged and property worth thousands of rupees was destroyed.

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