3 buddhist monks shot dead

Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, July 13 - Curfew was imposed in Leh town of Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir today following tension between the majority Buddhist and minority Muslim population. Over a dozen persons of both communities, including Sonam Gombo, vice-president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), were arrested as a precautionary measure.

Tension has gripped the area since Monday last after the reports of alleged derogatory remarks being made by Sonam Gombo against the Quran. Demonstrations are being held for the past three days by the two communities in view of the alleged derogatory remarks.

Senior civil administration and police officials have already reached the town to take stock of the situation. These include the Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Rather and the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Mr Khursheed Ahmad Ganai. They urged both the communities to help the administration in maintaining peace and amity in the town. The DIG, Police, Mr K. Rajendra, is camping at Leh to oversee the law and order situation.

According to reports received here, the Muslims on Wednesday submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner, Leh, demanding action against the LBA vice-president for allegedly passing derogatory remarks against the holy book. The LBA has also expressed concern over the statement of one of its leaders. Both associations of Buddhists and Muslims held a meeting and denounced the remarks of Mr Gombo.

On Tuesday evening, three Buddhist monks were shot dead by gunmen in the remote area of Rungdum on Kargil-Zanskar road in Kargil district of the frontier cold desert region of Ladakh.

An official spokesman said that another monk who escaped, reported the incident at the police post, Panikhar, yesterday. A massive manhunt has been launched by the police in the area, about 100 km from Kargil. The bodies of the three monks have been brought down to Panikhar, the spokesman said.

This is the first such incident in the state in which Buddhist monks have been killed in the decade-long militancy. The incident took place a day after the trouble started in Leh town of the region following alleged derogatory remarks made against the Quran.

The higher reaches of Rungdum connect Kargil district with Kishtwar area of Doda district in the Jammu region. Official sources here claimed that militants had come from the militancy infested Kishtwar area of Doda district. Further investigations into the incident were on as the searches were launched to nab the killers.

The Superintendent of Police, Kargil, Mr Javed Geelani rushed to Panikhar and is camping there to supervise the operation.

The Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Mr Togdan Rimpoche and Minister of State for Tourism, Mr T. Namgyal, both of them belonging to the Ladakh region could not land at Panikhar this morning to assess the situation. Their helicopter from Srinagar could not cross Zoji La due to the bad weather conditions in the regions. The two ministers are expected to visit the area tomorrow in case the weather is clear.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, has condemned the killing of Buddhist monks and said that those responsible for this dastardly act have no religion or any respect for human values. He asked all right-thinking people to condemn this senseless and barbaric act.

The Chief Minister appealed the people to maintain communal harmony and peace in the wake of the inhuman act. He asked the police to leave no stone unturned in nabbing the killers.


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