Buddhist body calls Zanskar inter-faith marriage ‘forceful conversion’, couple denies

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As the  inter faith marriage in Zanskar area of Kargil in Union Territory of Ladakh has snowballed into a major controversy in the region, a Budhist body on Wednesday claims that the case is of “forceful conversion” of religion by the Muslim man. The accusations were denied by the couple. 

Abdul Qadir Wani, 31, a muslim man of Padum Zanskar and a Buddhist woman Summaya Kousar, (Sonam Angmo) said that they have married out of “their own free will and consent” and accused the family and the relatives of latter of harassment and threats in a petition filed before the High Court in Srinagar. 

Sonam Angmo, with her new name Summaya Kousar, and her husband Qadir have filed a petition in the court arguing that both are major and had sought protection. As per the documents, with The Kashmir Walla, Angmo is over 21 years old. “Both are hiding somewhere to avoid threats,” said Advocate Ismail, counsel for the couple, adding that, “Father and brother of Qadir have been detained by the police.”

According to the affidavit submitted by Kousar in the High Court, which was accessed by The Kashmir Walla, she says, “I have married with the petitioner number 2 Abdul Qadir… with freewill and without any coercion and undue influence, however to the disliking of  my parents and other relatives who as such are causing interference in my married life causing threat to me… I want to live with my husband.”

The counsel, Ismail said, “the couple have been given protection by the court since they are major and have married out of their free will and consent as both recorded their statement in the court.” 

“Taking into the account relief solicited for by petitioners, writ petition is disposed of with a direction to respondents to provide security cover to petitioners and act in strict accordance with law laid down by the Supreme court in Lata Singh v state of UP (2006) 5 SCC475 and Shakti Vahini vs Union of India and others AIR 2018 SC 1601,” the referred judgement given on 26 November 2021 reads.

The court further said, “provided that both petitioners are major and marriage has been solemnized in strict accordance with prevalent laws, and if there is any case/FIR registered against any of the petitioner (s) police may go ahead with the investigation under rules and take it to its logical conclusion.”

However, four days after the judgement Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) wrote to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Ladakh demanding prompt intervention and action into the case of what they call a case of “forcible conversion”.

The letter written by the LBA to LG of Ladakh in possession of The Kashmir Walla accusing the Muslim man of “running away with the Budhist girl” reads , “Qadir ran away with the Budhist girl with the sole motive of [faith] conversion.”

The body threatened communal tensions in the region. “Inter community forceful conversion through allured marriage in Ladakh have always triggered ill-fated communal riots in the past causing extensive damage to public and private properties,” the letter reads.

“Unless the administration takes prompt action in immediate restoration of the girl to the family, extreme tension is bound to trigger,” it further reads.

However activists in the region contend that the personal case of the two families rather, two persons should not be used to sour relations between the two communities.

“It is not the first time that such an incident has taken place. We live in a diverse society where people belonging to different religions live. In past many Muslim woman have married Budhists and vice versa,” said Sajjad Kargili, a member of the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), an amalgam of different political and religious parties based in Ladakh’s Kargil region.

Kargili further said the case should be dealt with within the purview of law and must not be politicised to damage the communal harmony in the region. 

“Marriage is a personal choice and there shouldn’t be intimidation from any side,” he said. 

Meanwhile, LBA said that based on the inputs from the Zanskar unit of the association they wrote accordingly to the LG.

The President of the Zanskar unit of LBA could not be contacted for the comments.

In 2017, the association asked people of Kargil who were working in the Leh region to leave  following a Budhist women marrying a Muslim man as they suspected that “the marriage had been conducted under duress” despite the women’s denial of their accusations.

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