//Kashmir government probing Muslim-Buddhist clashes

Kashmir government probing Muslim-Buddhist clashes

The Jammu and Kashmir government has launched a probe to ascertain whether Buddhist-Muslim clashes in the Ladakh region were part of a conspiracy to destabilise the three-month-old administration led by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Though tensions have existed between the two communities since 1989 when Buddhist groups launched a campaign for granting union territory status to Ladakh, last week’s clashes triggered by the alleged desecration of the Quran did not appear to be part of the strife witnessed over the years, officials said.

"The tearing of the pages of Quran was definitely a mischief," a senior official told IANS.

"We are trying to see whether the clashes that followed this mischievous action had political overtones, and whether the whole thing was part of a political conspiracy," said the official who is associated with the probe.

According to those asked to conduct the probe, pieces of the puzzle have started falling together.

While protests over the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed were going on in the Kashmir Valley and other parts of the state, major communal clashes that had their origin in the unrelated desecration of the Quran erupted in Leh.

The clashes later spread to neighbouring Kargil, the Shia Muslim-dominated part of Ladakh.

This was the first black spot on the government led by Azad, who came to power in November under a power-sharing agreement between his Congress party and the People’s Democratic Party.

"First, there were attempts to cause disaffection among government employees over increased working hours. Then there was a campaign to delay the restoration of power supply and block essential supplies to the Kashmir Valley last month when snowfall hit the region," an official said.

"All those attempts did not succeed, and now we have the communal trouble, which is more serious than a prolonged disruption of power supply," he said.

Jammu and Kashmir was not rocked by communal clashes even during the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. It witnessed its first sectarian clash in February 1986, which resulted in the fall of the Ghulam Mohammad Shah government.

A probe conducted then had traced the origin of the clashes to politicians.

"If that story is being re-run, it is a dangerous thing. We are looking at this angle," the official said.