Ladakh Burns In Imported Terror
16 February 2006
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: Ladhakis are not used to this: religious tension, clamping of curfew and the army marching through the place better known for its Buddhist chants, prayer flags fluttering between mountains and the arid, pristine moonscape. Old timers say Ladakh has not seen communal tension since the 1970s when Buddhists and Muslims went for each other's throat over minor incidents. This time, as the world burns in the Prophet cartoon row, the division between the two communities happened over the reported desecration of the Holy Koran in Bodh Kharbu. The picturesque village, which is mainly populated by Buddhists, is located in the Muslim-dominated district of Kargil in the Ladakh region. Infuriated locals say a Muslim youth had witnessed a page or two of the Koran being shredded to pieces. The young man has gone missing but Ladakh simmered with tension for over a week as youths from both the communities tried to outdo each other in acts of vandalism. Houses were torched, a police officer was attacked and his eye almost gouged out. The worst-hit places, apart from Bodh Kharbu, were Leh and Chhuchod, the biggest village in Ladakh. While the army marched through Leh to enforce peace, the Muslim-dominated village of Chhuchod became an easy target for mob violence. At night, the Buddhists in the village were forced to flee to the nearby hamlets of Stok and Matho. Residents of Bodh Kharbu wonder how their village ended up in communal flames. 'If it is proved that one of the villagers was involved in the unholy act, he wouldn't be spared,' say local people. Buddhist leaders like 60-year- old T. Dorjey say terrorism was imported into this highland of peace and tranquility. They suspect the role of Kashmiri militants in fomenting seeds of discord among peace-loving Ladakhis.