Land row poses threat to Ladakh’s communal harmony, common interests

VoL/ March 28, 2022: After the conduct of Tangpe Cho-Nga in Kargil by the Kargil Buddhist Association (KBA), at the disputed structure that the KBA called “Kargil Monastery”, a heated debate has triggered among the two religious communities in Ladakh’s Kargil District. This could plausibly widen the gap between the Muslim and Buddhist communities of Ladakh which was once known for peace, harmony and coexistence. 

The row sprout when the Kargil Buddhist Association conducted a function called “Tangpe Cho-Nga” on March 18, which is the full moon day in the first month of the lunar calendar and is said to be considered very auspicious among the Buddhist community on the above place. On the occasion, the Choskyong Palga Rinpoche was invited who announced a day earlier on Facebook that he is “the first Rinpoche to visit the old Kargil Gompa & it will be my pleasure to conduct a smoke offering puja (Sang), Dharma feast (Tsok), hoisting of prayers flags & banners, reciting the Prajnaparamita in 8000 Verses (Rgyadstog Pa), & giving oral transmission (Lung) of Vajracchedika Sutra (Dorjey Chodpa)”. 

On March 19, the Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust and Jamiat Ulema Kargil strongly condemned the alleged attempts to spoil communal harmony in Kargil by changing the Sarai structure into “Kargil Monastery” by the Kargil Buddhist Association. The Vice President of Religious Affairs, IKMT, Sheikh Bashir Shakir and President Jamiat Ulema made the statements during congregations held to mark the birth anniversary of Imam Mehdi, the twelfth Shia Imam. 

* Click to Follow Voice of Ladakh on WhatsApp *

Sheikh Bashir said that the Buddhist community has already confessed and acceded that the disputed structure at Kargil town is a Sarai. Both the clerics said that in revenue records the structure is recorded as Sarai and not as a monastery. Since then, two orders are being circulated on social media. The Government order dated March 15, 1961, reads that “Sanction is accorded to the grant of Khalsa land measuring 2 Kanals out of Khasra No: 2305/2204 situated in Monza Kargil, tehsil Kargil of Leh District in favour of Ladakh Buddhist Association through its President for construction of a Buddhist Temple and Sarai thereon. The grant of land will not be subject to any good rent or premium.

While another order Dated June 18, 1969, changed the term from “Buddhist Temple and Sarai” to “residential/ commercial purposes”. The order reads, “In partial modification of Government Order No: 99 of 1961 dated 15.3. 1961, it is here by ordered that the land at Kargil allotted to the Buddhist Association shall be utilised by the Association for construction of a building for residential/ commercial purposes and in no case for any religious purposes.”

Sheikh Bashir further said that, in a surprise, the Kargil Buddhist Association (KBA) conducted a worship event at the structure naming it “Kargil Monastery” on Friday when the people of the Muslim community were busy in Friday prayers. Sheikh Bashir further said that the peaceful Buddhist community is not to be blamed of this act, but only some politically motivated elements are consistently trying to spoil the peace and breach law and order in the district. 

Sheikh Bashir further said that the Buddhist Community after deliberation with Kargil Democratic Alliance and Council Administration are looking forward to constructing a monastery at Kurbathang. 

Member of Parliament from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal in a hasty response took to Facebook to express resentment against Sheikh Bashir where he “misinterpreted” Sheikh Bashir quoting him only a phrase from his speech that says “public also must take action on their behalf”.

In the original video that is available with this office, Sheikh Bashir explicitly instructed the people not to make any wrong statement that may cause any problem. While in the previous sentence Sheikh Bashir appealed to the Administration to take action against those who are delivering provocative press conferences and trying to spoil communal harmony. In the latter sentence, Sheikh Bashir urged the people not to make wrong statements and instructed them to follow the leaders. However, the MP Ladakh missed both sentences and produced a single phrase.

“I strongly condemn the very provocative speech recently delivered by Shaik Basheer Shakkri Vice Chairman, Religious Affairs, Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust (IKMT) ordering the gather of IKMT to take action (one by one) against the Buddhist minority community of Kargil. He says, ‘Awammi sang rerenang rereka action len’. Ladakh Administration must look into it and initiate appropriate action under Law. Such hate speech will definitely distrub (disturb) the communal harmony of Ladakh and we must not just ignored it casually, concerned authorities must take cognizance”, stated Jamyang.

In a press release on March 24, National Commission for Minorities expressed concern over the alleged provocative speech delivered by Vice Chairman, Religious Affairs, Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust (IKMT), Sheikh Bashir Shakir. Relying on the information delivered by Member, National Commission for Minorities, Government of India, Rinchen Lhamo, the commission alleged that Shaikh Bashir Shakir has delivered a provocative speech stating ordering to gather IKMT to take action one by one against the Buddhist Community of Minority of Kargil District.

“In this matter the commission has taken serious cognizance of this matter and a report is called from Superintendent of police of Kargil District of UT of Ladakh”, maintained the press release.

“Smt. Rinchen Lhamo further discussed that such kind of Provocative speech can imbalance the Harmony of the Society and further lead to Communal Riots. Lord Buddha always wanted peace in the society by spreading love for all human beings. We shouldn’t discriminate other community for the benefits of someone. In future if something is happened like this, the commission will take necessary actions in favor of Justice”, read the press release. 

The press release from National Commission for Minorities surfaced only after Rinchen Lhamo met with Jamyang Namgyal in Leh. The choice of words for translation made by Rinchen Lhamo for the press release is closely resembling that of the Member of Parliament from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal who was the first to make the issue. 

In parallel to Sheikh Bashir, President Jamiat Ulema Sheikh Nazir Mehdi Mohammadi had also made a similar statement flaying the Buddhist Community over the religious gathering at the LBA structure in Kargil. But the MP who recently visited the Jamiat Ulema did not find his statement a concern. 

Moreover, Sheikh Nazir in his speech had said that the Hill Development Council has already allocated four Kanal land for the Buddhist community, but to change the Sarai to a monastery is unfortunate. This is not against the construction of a religious structure, as Gurudwara and Temple already exist in Kargil but the communal motif against the recent move is a matter of concern.

Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor Kargil, Feroz Ahmad Khan was quick to respond and said that no land has been provided or demarcated yet for the construction of the monastery but only verbally discussed in meetings. 

While addressing the media, the CEC further said that if the Kargil Buddhist Association stick to the 1961 order where the land is granted for Buddhist temple the Council and Administration may not need to provide further land for the same purpose. 

After the response from IKMT and Jamiat Ulema, the Kargil Buddhist Association in a press conference claimed that the Tangpe Cho-Nga celebration is a routine that took place every year at the same location but at a small level. However, this year, Rinpoche was invited and celebrated on a larger level. 

The CEC Kargil, Feroz Khan also said that the event that took place at Kargil is a routine that is held every year at a small level. However, this year a Rinpoche was invited and conducted at a larger level. He appealed the religious organisations in Kargil and President LBA, Thupstan Chewang to address the issue with talks instead of discussing it on social media. 

The CEC further said that a few years earlier Kargil employees posted at Zanskar initiated a contribution and wanted to build a Sarai cum Imam Bargah but the Zanskar Buddhist Association (ZBA) interrupted saying that there is no single Shia household in Zanskar. Similarly, people in Kargil also raise the same question that in a 15 to 20 km radius of Kargil town there is no single Buddhist household. Thus, how it could and why it needs to build a Gonpa here. 

The CEC father said that for Shamshan Ghat or cremation site land has already been identified beyond the Kargil airport that will be developed soon. 

Pertinent to mention that, Sheikh Bashir maintained that in winters, the Kargil Buddhist Association in a press conference, ascribed false allegations to the people of Kargil that also could potentially provoke communal hatred in the district. 

On the other side, many took to social media to question the role of the National Commission for Minorities which take concern only for a particular minority community and not for other.

Similarly, Sheikh Nazir during the Friday sermon said that in Bazgo the Muslim lands are illegally occupied, in Zanskar construction of Imam Bargah has not allowed and in Leh, Muslim structures are not allowed; that all need to be discussed with the current issue.

Amid heated debate, Sheikh Bashir expressed concern that the Apex Body Leh and Kargil Democratic Alliance have bridged the gap between the two religious’ communities for common concerns of Ladakh. He alleged that the recent row is politically motivated to spoil the communal harmony and cooperation between the two bodies of veteran leaders. 

Many took to social media sites to express concern that the current rivalry would cause a loss of interest of Ladakh while many key issues are at stake that needs immediate and joint action from both the districts.


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>