A glimpse of ladakhi daily life...


Discover Ladakhi Reggae...'Nazron ke Samne' (Yang Su Saam)

Tuesday, 25 December, 2007

LUTF urges PM to hasten grant of UT status

NEW DELHI, Dec 24: Stating that a reign of terror had been let loose by the State Government in Leh, a delegation of the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) today urged the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to expedite granting Union Territory status to Ladakh.
Led by Thupstan Chhewang, MP and LUTF President, the delegation called on Dr Singh and urged him to include the Bhoti language in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and open the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage through Leh.
It pointed out that Bhoti was spoken by almost all inhabitants of border Himalayan regions in the country. The elevation of the language would boost their "confidence and self-esteem." The opening of Leh route for the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra would usher in prosperity in Ladakh, the delegation said.
Making a strong case for UT, the delegation pointed out that the Congress-led State Government was treating the duly-elected Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC-Leh) with utter contempt. It stated: "A reign of terror and repression has been let loose against us. The police has been set upon on us as a clearly pre-meditated strategy to browbeat us into submission."
It referred in this regard to the forcible closure of the headquarters of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), framing of false criminal including murder and attempt to murder charges against its office-bearers, police assault on an elected LUTF councillor, disrespect being shown to the Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor of the LAHDC and a campaign of calumny against the LUTF chief.
"We continue to be deprived of many financial and legislative powers. Our experience has been worse with key police and administrative officials remote-controlled from Srinagar. They hardly show any appreciation of basic tenets of democracy and our distinct and unique ethnic and linguistic identity. How can policemen or bureaucrats be allowed to ride roughshod over a democratic dispensation? How can they treat our social and religious organisations with utter contempt? Their wrong-doings have strengthened our resolve to keep striving for Union Territory to strengthen what we regard as our umbilical chord with New Delhi, the deleagation said."
The members of the delegation were: Tsering Dorjey, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (Leh). Sonam Wangchuk Norboo, MLA, Nubra, Tsering Angdus and Tsewang Tondup (Councillors), Lobzang Nyantak (senior LUTF leader), Dorjey Stanzin, Stanzin Delik, Tsering Angchuk, Jigmet Namgyal, Sonam Tsering, Nawang Norboo, Chotar Tsering, Tsering Paldan, Tondup Spalzang, Phunchok Stanzin,, Sonam Dorjey and Dorjey Namgyal (all councillors).

Monday, 10 December, 2007

Losar celebrated in Leh and Kargil district

KARGIL Dec 9: Chairman LAHDC greeted people on occasion of Mela Losar.As per a press note,Haji Asgar Ali Karbalaie wished that the festival would bring peace and prosperity to the state. Executive Councillor health and tourism department Sonam Namgyal also felicitated people of Leh, Kargil and Zanskar on the occasion.

Tuesday, 13 November, 2007

Buddhists in Ladakh renounce family planning

Wary of rising Muslim population, Buddhist apex body in Ladakh urges community to produce more children

SRINAGAR: Buddhist leaders say their population is declining due the family planning norms adopted by its community, while the Muslim population was showing an increase because of their refusal to adopt these initiatives owing to their religious directives.
A new dimension to the embroil has been added by the recent whip issued by Buddhist leaders urging their community members to renounce family planning programmes and produce as many children possible, in order to undo the demographic changes being effected in the area.
Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), an apex body of the Buddhists, has also shot off a letter to the Jammu and Kashmir government asking it not to implement family planning programmes in the region. “The Ladakhi race has limited population in the country and there is apprehension of its extinction. Hence, you are requested not to apply small family norms in the district as a special case,” said Dr Sonam Dawa, president of Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) in a letter written to J&K’s minister of health and medical education Mangat Ram Sharma.
Dr Dawa cautioned the government about the family planning camps in the area. “In the recent past, there have been certain cases of public resentment during the family welfare camps in the area. So you are requested to direct the department concerned not to hold family planning camps in the district,” he said.
According to 2001 census, the population of Ladakh’s two districts-Kargil and Leh-was 2.36 lakhs. Muslims form the majority with 47.40 percent of the population and Buddhists are behind them with 45.90 percent. The growth of Muslims was also better at 31.52 percent against 29.97 percent for the Buddhists. Muslims are in majority in Kargil district while Leh is dominated by Buddhists.
“There have been many factors responsible for our dwindling population. We have been adhering to family planning norms with the result that our population has been declining, while Muslims do not adopt the directives,” said Dr Dawa. LBA has now asked all its monks to preach against family planning.
Muslims on the other hand, have rubbished claims that they were responsible for the dwindling population of Buddhists. “Many Muslims are adopting family planning norms. It is an individual decision and we cannot force anyone,” said Asraf Ali, president of Anjuman-e-Islamia, Leh.
Ali noted that Buddhists being more educated and more prosperous take up family planning because they want smaller families.

Wednesday, 24 October, 2007

OPERATION SADBHAVANA – A Culture of Peace Process

(I visited Ladakh and a few border areas and saw for myself the project “Operational Sadvavana”, I met a number of villagers, school children and women in particular to know more about the unique developmental process, and I thought at once that many people outside India may not know the effort of an Indian Army General towards a culture of peace process in Kashmir, so I decided to write a paper about it.)
The contemporary world is witnessing an increasing assertion of rights and privileges on the basis of religion, ethnicity and nationality. Religious fundamentalism together with ethnic conflicts and terrorism have appeared on the international arena with remarkable force, and pervasiveness. The traditional idea of the term security has become outdated. We have to redefine security not only in terms of military power but also in terms of economic power/ role it plays due to its extensive spill over effects on other vital issues of nation state. A question can be raised at this stage---Security for whom? And how do we achieve it?
A phrase often used by the Kashmiris, when asked about their indifferent attitude towards the rest of the country is “hum to mile thae ---ap ne alag rakha (we joined but you kept us separate )”. To some extent, it holds true in the case of Kashmir. The need to break the geographical and political isolation of Kashmir from rest of the country should be the uppermost objective. The construction of railway lines to the Valley should have been taken up as a part of greater political strategy long ago. There is a strong need to remove the “ you ---feed ---me” type of attitude among the Kashmiris. The economic aid and investment must be geared to allow Kashmir’s economy to grow from below. The model for development must be found in order to have a systematic and sustainable development in the state.1
At the heart of the Indo-Pak conflict are two constants: One, the political usefulness of a war-like situation in both countries, and two, mutually sustained mindsets which recognize war as the only real solution. India and Pakistan are all the time vulnerable to the urge to fight. Peace-time life carries a sense of drudgery for millions of people in both countries. Military preparedness and the news of impending war have the unfortunate capacity to give both the young nation-states an instant sense of purpose. One can’t help recalling a time when India derived a sense of purpose by acting as a force for world peace during the seventies, it started to lose that self-identity, even as the failure of the national development project of the sixties became all too apparent. A new national identity began to take shape alongside the models available in the cold war-ridden world. Hunger, poverty and illiteracy gradually ceased to inspire the state planning apparatus. The desired self-image of a military power served a cohesive political role.2 Both countries have used education and the media to reinforce hostile mindsets. In Pakistan, school text books openly teach prejudice towards Hinduism and equate India with Hindus, belittling India’s struggle for secularism. Elite public schools have a better record, but their products either migrate or learn to live on the margins of a fluid, routinely manipulated public space. That journey to the margin of a rapidly shrinking political space is just beginning for the Indian elites whose children have been dutifully raised on the staple of scientific temper in a corrupt, chaotic political milieu. The simplistic, secular textbooks they have studied fail to contextualise Partition in a rational universe, leaving adequate room for the belief that Pakistan is neither a legitimate historical entity, nor a functioning nation. Here lie the roots of a common elite perception that India can emulate what Israel has done to the defenseless Palestine. Senior Dutch sociologist W F Wertheim has rightly bemoaned the absence of a peace economy in the lone superpower the world has now. If only rich countries would consider stopping the sale of expensive weapons to poor countries, they can bring about the stability and peace they love so much. It is the arms sold by the US, UK, Russia, France and a few others that have brutalized life across the Third World from Chile to Liberia to the Philippines. Yet, for India and Pakistan, a phased disengagement with the arms trade offers the only realistic countdown to peace. 3
So how do we define peace? To me, a fruitful definition of peace has to include both the absence of direct violence and the absence of indirect or structural violence. Yet this is a rather negative way to define peace, and several peace researchers and peace educators have attempted to arrive at more positive definitions of the term. Garcia (1981) holds that one of the most attractive definitions of peace and peace education for a broader and more realistic scope is the following one given by Mario Borelli :--- By peace we mean the results in any given society of equality of rights, by which every member of that society participates equally in decisional power which regulates it, and the distribution of the resources which sustain it. (Garcia, 1981, p.-165) So by peace we mean the absence of violence in any given society, both internal and external, direct and indirect. We further mean the nonviolent results of equality of rights, by which every member of that society, through nonviolent means, participates equally in decisional power which regulates it, and the distribution of the resources which sustain it.
The more up-to-date definitions of peace with the UN system to not define peace only as the absence of war and violence, but as the presence of justice. Peace is defined in more positive terms. This view was well expressed at the General Conference of UNESCO at its eighteenth session (Resolution 11.1): “Peace cannot consist solely in the absence of armed conflict but implies principally a process of progress, justice and mutual respect among the peoples designed to secure the building of an international society in which everyone can find his true place and enjoy his share of the world’s intellectual and material resources.”
Many would, however, still advocate that the Kashmiri struggle has reached a stage of no return, but in reality, the people in the Valley are most disenchanted and disillusioned not only with the unending spate of militancy but also for the fact that they have become a pawn in the game of power politics between Pakistan and India. Almost every family has lost a son, forcibly taken across the border for training. The women have fallen victim to rape and sexual molestation at the hands of the terrorists. The executions of numerous Kashmiris, including some prominent citizens, have left a bitter taste. The power struggles among the militant groups have led to kidnapping, looting, raping and killing of fellow beings. The local militants have resorted to forced marriages with girls belonging to socially higher and economically better off families. This has generated disenchantment among the average Kashmiri. 4

India, China troops hold peace meet in Ladakh

LEH, Oct 20: Indian and Chinese troops, as a part of confidence building measures and ‘Peace and Tranquility Agreement’ of 1993 between the two countries, held a peace meeting on the border in Chushul sector of eastern Ladakh region today.
With an objective to develop long lasting friendship between the two border forces, a mechanism of border personnel meetings and holding of flag meetings has been institutionalised. Today’s meet was held at Indian Border Personnel Meet Hut in Chushul sector. Both sides were represented by nine officers.
The Chinese delegation was received by the Indian delegation leader, Brig Surinder Singh. After the reception, the Indian national flag was hoisted and both the Indian and Chinese delegation saluted the tri-colour. In a formal meeting held in atmosphere of mutual trust, greetings were exchanged by both the sides. Both the sides agreed to join hands in contributing towards maintaining peace and tranquility in the region.
The Chinese delegation was treated to a cultural programme by the troops of Chushul garrison. The delegation was enthralled by the rich culture heritage of India and soaked in a spirit of bonhomie and friendship. They also enjoyed the Indian and Chinese music and resorted to foot thumping in the lovely afternoon. Later, both the sides exchanged pleasantries and gifts to commemorate the occasion.
As the curtain came down on the celebrations, the visitors saluted the tricolour and were escorted back to the Line of Actual Control by Brig Surinder Singh.
The friendly interactions between the two border forces have played a significant role in promoting and strengthening bonds of friendship, mutual trust and confidence between the two armies.

Wednesday, 17 October, 2007

Tearful adieu to Sheikh Mirza

LEH, Oct 16: Renowned Muslim Cleric of Leh Sheikh Mirza Hussain, who died in Srinagar, was today given a tearful adieu when his mortal remains were brought for burial here.
A large number of people from different shades attended his funeral procession. Prominent among them were Power Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC Leh Chering Dorje, Executive Councillor Health Dorje Mutup, MLC P Namgial, MLA Nubra Pintoo Norboo, Deputy Commissioner Leh Dr M K Bhandari, Executive Councilor PWD, LAHDC Kargil Nasir Munshi, MLA Zanskar Mohd Raza and Councillor Agha Mukhtar.
Leh Bazaar remained closed for half day in the memory of the religious leader.
Sheikh Mirza dedicated his life not only in preaching of Islam in Ladakh but also played prominent role in social activities especially in promotion of secular amity.

Sunday, 14 October, 2007

Eid celebrated at Leh, Kargil

LEH, Oct 13: Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated with great enthusiasm and religious fervour at Leh and Kargil.
In Leh, the main Eid-ul-Fitr congregation was offered at Imam Dargah under the Imamat of Sheikh Ghulam Hadi wherein thousand of Shia Muslims participated. Special prayers were offered for world peace, prosperity, communal harmony and brotherhood among different sections of the community.
Addressing the gathering after Eid-ul-Fitr Namaz, Ashraf Ali Barcha, president Anjuman Imamia Leh felicitated all Muslims of Ladakh region on the auspicious occasion and said that festival would bring the message of universal peace, tolerance, brotherhood and compassion.
In Kargil, two big congregations were held at Islamia School and Jama Masjid in which thousands of Muslims offered Eid Namaz under the aegis of Sheikh Mohammad Mussa Sharifi and Sheikh Mohammad Mohqiq. They prayed for the peace and prosperity in the region and the State.
Edi-ul-Fitr was also celebrated at Jaffaria Masjid Drass, Sankoo, Tai Suru and Shakar Chiktan blocks.
The Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC Kargil Haji Asgar Ali Karbalaei greeted the people on the occasion.

Sunday, 23 September, 2007

10 killed, 14 injured in Kargil truck accident

KARGIL, Sept 21: Ten labourers were killed and 14 others sustained injuries, four of them critically, when a truck carrying them skidded off the road and plunged into 200 feet deep gorge near Namkila on Leh-Kargil road under the jurisdiction of Wagan Police Post early this morning.
The ill-fated vehicle bearing registration number JK02G-4645 was on its way from Leh to Srinagar when near Namkila the vehicle plunged into a deep gorge killing 10 labourers on the spot and wounding 14 others including conductor and owner of the truck.
On the recept of information about the accident, a police party from Wagan Police Post rushed to the spot and started rescue operation with the help of local people. SSP Kargil Gareeb Dass rushed to the spot and supervised relief and rescue operation.
It took about four hours to the rescue teams to bring out the injured labourers as well as dead bodies from the gorge. All the injured were rushed to local hospital and 10 of them were, later, shifted to District Hospital Kargil for specialised treatment.
The condition of four of them was stated to be critical when reports last came in.
The deceased have been identified as Methi Ram (driver of the vehicle), a resident of Nanak Nagar Jammu, Ram Lal Rai, son of Jagdev Rai, Mehtu Nissar, Mukesh, Janardhan Kumar, Harinder Madho, Nand Lal, Virender Ram, Hari Har and Piju Bhagwan, all the residents of Bihar.
Of the 14 injured, 10 have been identified as Mohd Ramzan of Doda, Ravinder Kumar of Bihar, Amar Chand of Kishtwar, Hilal Ahmed of Sopore, Mishri Ram, Shrawan Kumar, Manoj Kumar, all the residents of Bihar, owner of the truck Gurcharan Singh, son of Lekh Singh of Jammu and Riaz Ahmed of Doda.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed shock over the tragic road accident near Namkila on Kargil- Leh road.
The Chief Minister expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls.
He issued instructions to the health authorities for providing best possible medicare to the injured for their speedy recovery.

Thursday, 13 September, 2007

Siachen glacier thrown open to public

Sept 12: Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield and an inhospitable terrain, has been thrown open to public.
Trekkers can now go up to the icy heights of the second largest glacier in the mighty Karakoram Range in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, a dreaded place till four years ago because of continuous shelling from Pakistan.
A group of 20 intrepid civilians—teenage girls, NCC and Military Academy Cadets, housewives and corporate executives—would form the first batch to tread the glacial heights, where snow never melts, from September 19, Army officials said here today.
Though the Indian and Pakistani troops are at points across the 72-km long glacier, almost at eyeball to eyeball confrontation, peace has prevailed in the snowy heights for the past four years ever since a cease-fire is in force.
The group sponsored by the Army Adventure Cell and Indian Mountaineering Foundation would trek from the base to Kumar Camp located at a height of 16,000 feet,on the mid-glacier.
On their four day trudge across the glacier, the civilian trekkers would be guided by 10 Army glacial experts.
Though guns have fallen silent danger does lurk in the form of giant crevasses and shifting ice formations.
" We plan to open the glacier to similar civilian trekkers on a regular basis from next year", Army officials said.
Significantly, the move to throw open the glacier to public comes two years after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his maiden visit had expressed a desire that efforts should be made to turn the place into a "mountain of peace".
The first public trekking group would be in glacier from September 19 to October 11.
" The group would gather at Leh and undergo a weeklong acclimatization before reaching the Siachen base camp by road " Army officials said.
At base camp, they would undergo another spell of conditioning before venturing out to the glacier itself. The trekkers would set up four staging camps before reaching the Kumar point in the middle of the glacier.
For future trekkers, officials said that the upper age limit would be 40 and all adventurers would have to be medically and physically fit.
The trekking adventure, officials said, could be a prelude to throwing open the glacier even to foreign expeditions and climbing groups.
Four major climbing groups from various armies have approached the Government for clearance to attempt some over 7,500 peaks straddling the glacier.

Wednesday, 5 September, 2007

American tourist found dead

LEH, Sept 4: An American tourist was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a hotel in the heart of the town today.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Leh, Alok Kumar said that an American citizen, Robinson Michel Forbes, had been staying in the Auspicious Hotel since Sunday. "When the tourist didn’t open the door of his room despite repeated knocks by the hotel staff, the hotel Manager become suspicious", he added.
Later, the matter was brought to the notice of the police personnel, who entered the room by breaking the door. The tourist was found dead on the bed but there was no visible injury on the body, the SSP said.
The body was, later, shifted to general hospital where the post-mortem was conducted. The body has been kept in the mortuary.
"We are trying to ascertain the cause of American’s death", Mr Kumar said, adding "the American Embassy has been informed about the incident".
An inquest proceeding under Section 174 CrPC has been initiated in this regard.

Sunday, 2 September, 2007

Ladakh Festival begins with great fanfare

LEH, Sept 1: A record number of 42,000 tourists visited Leh till ending August 2007 and about 70,000 tourists were expected to visit Leh by end of this year.
This was stated by Chief executive Councilor LAHDC, Tsering Dorje while inaugurating Ladakh Festival-2007 at Leh Polo Ground. Besides thousands of local people about 2000 foreign tourists attended the function.
While extending welcome to tourists, the CEC Mr Dorje said true objective of Ladakh Festival was now bearing fruit. Pointing towards foreigners, he said that the sublime and smiling faces of Ladakhi people will find at every spot in Leh city and other villages to greet them. He urged the tourists to visit Leh in the coming years with their friends.
EC Tourism, Tsewang Rigzin in his welcome address dwelt at length about the festival and their recent press briefing at Srinagar and meeting with the Tour and Travel Association at Srinagar.. He said Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was giving its utmost attention in making the Festival more attractive and putting it at World Tourists Map.
Director Tourism Kashmir Farooq Ahmed Shah, the guest of honour on the occasion, said that State Government was making every effort to put Ladakh Tourism, ahead of all. He said during Tourism Expo held recently at Behrain and Dubai, the tourism potential of Ladakh was given its due focus. He said Prime Minister’s special package under which Rs 20 crore each were given to set up Tourism Development Authority at Leh, Kargil and Zanskar, which would further give a boost to the tourism.
Deputy Commissioner Leh, Dr M K Bhandari, who is also chairman of the Festival committee, extended vote of thanks. A grand cultural procession and function was held on inaugural day of festival which will last for full 15 days.

Friday, 31 August, 2007

6 killed in car accident near Nyimo (Leh)

Aug 30: At least six persons were killed and 10 others injured when a vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a 70-feet gorge in Leh district.
The ill-fated vehicle bearing registration number JK07-0880 was on its way from Kargil to Leh when it rolled down into a gorge near village Nimo. Driver of the vehicle reportedly lost control while negotiating a sharp curve.
On the receipt of information, a police party swung into action and brought out occupants of the ill-fated vehicle from the gorge. All were rushed to hospital where six of them were pronounced as brought dead.
The condition of four injured was stated to be critical when reports last came in.

Celebrating 60 years of independence... Hindustan zindabad !

Wednesday, 29 August, 2007

Ladakh Festival

LEH, Aug 28: Deputy Commissioner, Leh, Dr M K Bhandari today reviewed arrangements of Ladakh festival in a meeting of district officers, which is being celebrated from September 1 to 15 this year.
The Deputy Commissioner said Ladakh Festival is celebrated to attract more tourists to Ladakh and as such he laid stress on making arrangements in a befitting manner so that show should look festive.
Earlier Deputy Director Tourism, Urgain Londup, elaborated the details of the festival events which were to be presented during festival. He said cultural programmes, polo match, archery, chams, rock climbing, river rafting, camel safari would be the main features of the Festival.

Tuesday, 24 April, 2007

Artificial glaciers to meet water crisis in Ladakh

New Delhi, April 13 (PTI): For those in the plains they may be just another of nature's wonders but for the people in Ladakh glaciers mean life as they are the only source of water for daily as well as farm use.
Now retired, 67 year-old civil engineer Chewang Norphel, always wanted to rid the people of nagging worries on scarce water supply.
"I realised that all the problems of the region were related to water, which was scarce in most areas," says Norphel who goes by the nickname "Glacier Man." He was recently in Delhi to accept an award from the Limca book of records for his achievements.
The idea of 'artificial glacier' came from the simple observation that in winter taps were left open to stop the water freezing in pipelines. The water flowed into the drains surrounding the taps and froze.
"And it is then that it occurred to me: why not try and make artificial glaciers in the vicinity of the village so that local farmers get a real headstart when they need it most," says Norphel.
Norphel now has been credited with building over 10 artificial glaciers in Ladakh which came as an blessing for the locals who rely on the natural glaciers for irrigation and other daily chores.
"Ladakh falls in the rain-shadow area of Himalayas, where the annual average rainfall seldom exceeds 50 mm", says Norphel adding that the only water source is that from the glaciers which melt in summer releasing only a little water that is used by locals for irrigating their crops.
For over 15 years, Norphel has been building 'artificial glaciers' to make life a little easier for the hard-working but terribly poverty-stricken farmers of Ladakh.
This water shortage is more acutely felt during the summer months, between March/April and June. Any delay in sowing the crop rules out an October harvest, as it does not mature in time to beat the harsh winter.
"The glaciers begin melting only after July so the short sowing season sometimes begins and ends before the bulk of water is made available through the melting of natural glaciers," says Norphel.
Norphel's technique uses a network of pipes to capture and channel precious snowmelt that would otherwise be wasted.
Using some local ingenuity, Norphel built his 'artificial glacier' from stone embankments and a few hundred metres of iron pipe. First, water from an existing stream was diverted through iron pipes to a shady area of the valley.
From there, the water was made to flow out onto a sloping hill at regular intervals along the mountain slope.
Small stone embankments impede the flow of water, creating shallow pools. During the winter, as temperatures drop steadily, the water in these small pools freezes. Once this cycle has been repeated over many weeks, a thick sheet of ice forms, resembling a long, thin glacier.
The glacier man says artificial glaciers score over a natural one in several ways. "It is closer to the village and at a comparatively lower altitude. Also, the early release of water comes as a bonus for farmers as they are able to get water a whole month before the snow starts melting," he says adding that this is particularly useful for them to start sowing.
The largest artificial glacier Norphel has so far built is near the village of Phuktsey.
Standing tall at 300 metres and with a width of 45 metres it goes one metre deep into the earth it supplies irrigation water to the entire village of around 700 people.
"The glacier was built at a cost of about Rs 90,000, which is about a tenth of what it would have cost to build a reservoir with similar storage capacity," he says.
The technology has gained popularity amongst the local populace as it is effective, simple, affordable and uses local resources and skills.
"The villagers can understand this," Norphel says. "This is optimum utilisation of water by using the simplest technique, at a low cost. It also helps recharge groundwater and nearby springs."
As more and more glaciers are being constructed all over Ladakh, the stretch of barren land under cultivation is shooting up providing better benefits for the region's communities.
Apart from glaciers solar buildings and green houses in the valley are other projects that have captured the intrest and involvemet of Norphel.

Tuesday, 17 April, 2007

Zarzameen-e-Man, a tribute to our Hazara and Afghan brothers...

Srinagar - Leh road opening this month

After having been closed for about 6 monthes, Srinagar - Leh highway should open after a dozen of days; Zoji-la being cleared these days. For more details, see http://www.dailyexcelsior.com
Manali - Leh road shouldn't however open before the end of May.

Wednesday, 11 April, 2007

A journey on frozen river

KARGIL, Apr 10:With the melting of 157-km- long frozen surface of river ‘‘Chadar" following improvement in the weather, the people in Zanaskar remained cut off with the rest of the world.

"We use the frozen surface of the river to reach Leh after covering the 157-long distance in five days," a resident of the Zanaskar Ghulam Rasool said.

However, on some occasions it takes more than a week or two, depending upon the weather, as the surface gets frozen only when the temperature dips to minus six to ten degrees, he said.

Ghulam Rasool said the main 332-km-long Kargil-Zanaskar road gets closed in November every year due to 15 to 20 feet snow and reopens only in the last week of May.

Along with five other residents of Zanaskar, I arrived at Leh in the first week of February through the frozen river,’’ he said adding "it was very risky too. We had no alternative but to use the river to Leh," he added.

However, he said, the authorities have decided to operate M-17 Indian Airforce Helicopter between Zanaskar and Leh and Kargil on every Thursday. But, he said, due to bad weather the service mostly remained suspended.

Sharing his experience about the journey on foot on frozen surface, he said, "five others and I left Zanaskar for Leh through the frozen river. However, when we had completed two-thirds of the journey, suddenly the frozen surface melted," he said adding "we had to wait for three days till it got frozen again."

Mostly people leave Zanaskar or Leh in groups with a stock of eatables for ten to 15 days. There are natural caves on the banks of the river which are being used for night halt, he said adding "on some occasions we have to remain in caves till the surface refreezes again."

Ghulam Rasool said he could not undertake the return journey through the river in the second week of last month as the frozen surface had melted following improvement in the weather.

He said there is not a single village on the bank of the river.

Official sources said that there are 60 Zanaskar bound passengers stranded at Kargil since March 25. Similarly another 40 are stranded at Leh.

They said 30 passengers, including students and a businessman are stranded at Zanaskar.

The 332-km-long Kargil-Zanaskar road remained under 15 to 20 feet snow during the winter. However, authorities had stored essential commodities, including rice, atta, sugar, kerosene oil, medicines and gas cylinders at Zanaskar before the road was closed on November 27 last year due to snowfall.

The Executive Councilor of Hill Development Council, Tourism P Namgyal said a helicopter service has been arranged for stranded passengers. However, it depends upon the weather condition.

Monday, 9 April, 2007

Leh NH to re-open this month

KARGIL, Apr 8: The 434-km Srinagar-Leh National Highway is likely to re-open for vehicular traffic in the last week of April in view of the significant improvement in weather conditions in the region in the recent past, a Defence official said today.
Lt Col Yogesh Chandra of GREF’s 93 Road Construction Company said the snow clearance work all along the highway, closed in November last year, was going on in full swing.
The project beacon of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has pressed its men and machinery into service to clear the road.
Lt Col Chandra said up to 30-km road from Drass to Mina Marg has been cleared. "And if weather permits, the highway will be thrown open for vehicular traffic in the last week of April," he added.

Tuesday, 27 March, 2007

Scientists find palm fossils in Ladakh

New Delhi, March 27 (PTI): The frozen deserts of Ladakh once had a coastal environment millions of years ago with palm trees dotting its landscape and scientists have discovered yet another evidence of it in the form of plant fossils.
Palaeobotanists scouring the icy heights of Jammu and Kashmir came across a set of plant fossils near Tsokar in the Eastern Ladakh region a proof of the existence of a coastal environment in the region.
"The fossils belong to the middle-late Eocene period, anywhere between 45-33 million years ago," S K Paul, a senior scientist with the Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology said.
The fossils were discovered near Shingbuk, about 12 km from Tsokar which lies in the Indus Suture Zone which divides the Himalayas from the Karakoram Mountains as well as the Tibetan plateau.
The scientists claim that the fossil specimen discovered by them is diffrent from all the known species of Palmacites and have described it as a new species -- 'Palmacites tsokarensis', named after the locality from where it was collected.
"Its presence not only indicates that palms were abundant during the middle-late Eocene in the region, but also suggests that the area had not attained as much height as it has today (about 5,000 meters above mean sea level)," he said.
Paul, along with co-authors of the study -- Ram Awatar, Binita Phartiyal, A Sharma and R C Mehrotra of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, reported their findings in the latest issue of journal 'Current Science'.
Palaeobotanists have found fossils of palm trees and even a variety of rhinoceros from the Ladakh region suggesting existence of a coastal environment and later a luxuriant vegetation in the area.
"In the tectonic interpretation it can be said that a large gap of the Tethys Ocean was consumed along this zone as a result of collision of the Indian plate with the Eurasian plate," the scientists said in their report.
The Tethys Ocean existed in the Mesozoic era, the period between 250 and 65 million years ago, between the continents of Gondwana and Laurasia.
The leaf impressions were collected from the Indus Suture Zone's Hemis Formation which is considered to belong to the middle-late Eocene period.
"The fossil remains are of a fine quality and preserved in the finer part of the siltstone horizons," Paul said.
A team of palaeobotanists led by R N Lakhanpal had discovered palm fossils -- Livistona wadiai -- in the 1980s from northeast of Hemis Gompa, a famous Buddhist temple situated about 50 km southeast of Leh.
"The present fossil, along with Livistona, indicates tropical conditions during the depositional period," Paul said.
The fossils are of a fan-shaped leaf, with the preserved lamina length of about 34 cm and a preserved width of 20 cm.

Friday, 16 March, 2007

Kargil - Skardu road

Pakistan has finally agreed to explore the possibility of starting the Kargil-Skardu bus between Ladakh in India and the Northern Areas occupied by Pakistan. NDTV travelled to the border crossing near Kargil for a first-ever look at what this means for the locals and the army.For decades it has been a road to nowhere, ending at Army Post 43. Just 15 metres away from the forward bunker of Post 43 is a Pakistani post.
For the last three years India has proposed running a bus from Kargil to Skardu. Pakistan initially refused but has now promised to consider the request. Soldiers say opening the road will require little construction."In case we have to get this road functional, it involves a construction of approximately a kilometre of work," said Captain Amol Dhumal, Rajput Regiment.Restoring bondsBut until that is done, villagers from Hunderman near Post 43 earn a living from the land or working as porters for the Indian army. Until 1971 they worked for the Pakistan army. The people of Hunderman say life is better since the ceasefire of 2003. Everyone agrees that opening the road would transform their lives with shops, bus stations and frequent trips to relatives.Pakistan has always blocked the bus as it is sensitive to outsiders entering the Northern Areas around Skardu and Gilgit. But locals believe it is because of the poverty across."I think they are ashamed at the poverty across the LoC. That's why they don't open the LoC. Our relatives would be really happy if the LoC was opened for crossing," said Ghulam, Peon, PWD Labour Department.
For now Islamabad has taken a small step towards opening its most sensitive border. The elders have waited a lifetime and they now wonder whether their children will have to as well.

NDTV.com, Thursday, March 15, 2007

Monday, 5 March, 2007

Regular air service to Kargil demanded

All Kargil Ladakh Students Union, Jammu, has expressed strong resentment over no air service to Kargil.
In a press statement, the Students Union lamented that Kargil remains cut off through surface link for six months but despite that no air service has been started for the region. Recently Government airlifted 8,000 stranded passengers of Kashmir but no single sortie was made for the Kargil passengers, who are also stranded for the last 25 days, alleged the Union adding that even in emergency cases, people of the region could not move and thus miss commercial and employment opportunities.
Thus the Government should take our plight seriously and regularize the promised air service to Kargil and thus stop discriminating the people of this remote district, said the release.

Friday, 23 February, 2007

'Snowstorm of hate'... one year ago in Ladakh

MOHAMMAD MUSA stamped down the steps of the ramshackle mosque in the village of Bodh Kharbu and glowered at the two men with whom he had spent almost every working-day morning. "What have you done?" he growled angrily.
Neither Shravan Kumar, a migrant from Sikkim who runs a roadside tea shop, nor Tashi Namgyal, an unemployed village resident who was amongst its most loyal customers, seemed to have any idea what Musa was talking about. Musa told them that pages of the Koran stored in the mosque had been torn to pieces. The three men sat in the teashop, discussing what to do next. "I've had enough of all this talk," Musa finally said. "I'm going to deal with things my way." Soon after dark, a mob from Musa's village, Khangral, attacked Buddhist homes on the fringes of Bodh Kharbu, sparking off a series of communal attacks and counter-attacks unprecedented in Ladakh's history. Ladakh's Shia Muslims and Buddhists, who are bound together by ties of language, culture and even kinship, found their historic ties ripped apart by a snowstorm of hate.
Just what led a small shack in an obscure village to become the starting point of a communal conflagration? At first glance, the violence appears as a straightforward Buddhist-Muslim confrontation. After the first attacks on Buddhist homes in Bodh Kharbu, which took place on the night of February 5, the authorities focussed on preventing the outbreak of similar violence in the Shia-dominated town of Kargil. Crowds that gathered to commemorate Muharram were incensed by the news from Bodh Kharbu. However, thanks to the intervention by religious and political leaders as well as the police, no violence took place.
On February 7, though, things began to go wrong. That morning, young Shia men who had gathered in Leh's Imambara for a Muharram procession began to force shops in the city bazaar to shut down. Aziz Darzi, an ethnic-Kashmiri Sunni shoe-store owner who failed to respect this demand, was attacked. Shoes stored in his shop were tossed on to the street. One of them ended up outside the door of the offices of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), where a prayer meeting was under way.
The next morning, Buddhist chauvinists gathered at the LBA office to avenge the supposed insult to their faith. Even while officials negotiated with LBA leaders, the mob attacked and seriously injured a Muslim policeman, Mohammad Abdullah. LBA leaders eventually agreed not to take out a protest procession, but low-grade attacks on Muslims in Leh grew in volume. Stones were thrown at Muharram processions in Leh on February 8 and 9, while Muslim-owned homes were set on fire in the hamlet of Horzey.
Shia retaliation came soon. Leh policeman Padam Dorje lost an eye after a protester lashed out at his face with a sharp-tipped iron chain, a device used for flagellation by penitents during Muharram processions. In Kargil, a mob set ablaze the home of Deputy Superintendent of Police P. Sonam; several senior officials were injured in stone-throwing. Troops from the Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police were called out to enforce curfews in Kargil and Leh, which dragged on until February 16.
A close study of the violence in Ladakh, though, makes clear that the violence was not a two-way fight between Buddhists and Shia Muslims. Struggles internal to both communities were just as important. In Kargil, for example, the violence of February 11 mainly targeted the offices of the Kargil Hill Council and its chief executive, Asghar Ali Karbalai, not local Buddhists. Karbalai, a Congress-affiliated politician, took charge of the Kargil Hill Council as a result of new legislation that gave the four nominated members of the body voting rights. National Conference-backed councillors were thus reduced to a minority - and the events of Bodh Kharbu gave them a chance to settle the score.
Underpinning the Congress-N.C. feud in Kargil is a deeper disputation: the right to speak for Kargil's Shia community. The traditional order is represented by the traditionalist Islamia School, which represents the clerical class. By contrast, the newer Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust (IKMT) voices the aspirations of new trading and business elites. Like the Islamia School, the IKMT has a chauvinist approach to religious practice. But it embraces reform in matters of education, particularly the schooling of girls.
Matters came to a head in 2002, when the IKMT broke ranks with the Islamia School and backed an independent Lok Sabha candidate who had the support of the Congress. The IKMT's candidate lost, but the action heralded the end of a unitary, pro-N.C. Shia order. In December 2003, the Islamia School hit back by winning the first elections to the new Kargil Hill Council. Soon, however, it was dethroned by the legislative coup which gave Karbalai and the IKMT control of the body.
In Leh, similarly, local politics underpinned the violence. Thupstan Chhewang, who represents the Ladakh Union Territory Front, was elected Member of Parliament as a direct consequence of the Congress-IKMT actions in Kargil. The LUTF was born after all Leh-based political parties were dissolved in the course of the 1989-1992 agitation demanding Union Territory status for Ladakh. The agitation, which included a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses, dragged on until 1992. Three people were killed in its course.
Chhewang's claims to speak, through the medium of the LUTF, for all of Ladakh's Buddhists came under challenge last year. In December, former LBA president Tsering Samphel broke ranks and announced the rebirth of the Ladakh unit of the Congress. Even though the LUTF sat on the Treasury bench in Parliament, Chhewang claimed that the decision betrayed Ladakh's united fight for Union Territory status. Split down the middle, the LBA executive had to be dissolved. LUTF hegemony was again under threat.
For elites in the region, struggles for political authority have more meaning now than at any point in the past. Because of its massive tourism earnings and huge flows of funds from military contracts, Leh has seen an influx of economic migrants, provoking fears among the district's Buddhists that they will eventually be marginalised. Many of the migrants are not Muslim - affluent Buddhists from the eastern agricultural regions of Leh and people from the plains have also settled in good numbers, but Ladakh's Shias make an easy target.
In Kargil, too, there are unprecedented stakes. As in Leh, military contracts have given birth to a new contractor class, which finds religion useful to consolidate its influence. Development funds now being handed over to the Kargil Hill Council, too, are a major means of patronage. If, as most people in the region expect, the Line of Control softens to enable trade with Gilgit and Baltistan, Kargil could witness an economic boom that will enable it to break its centuries-old economic bondage to both Leh and Srinagar.
Could the Bodh Kharbu incident, then, have been a deliberate act of provocation? At least some evidence points in that direction. Musa, speaking to Frontline, asserted that he had not actually entered the mosque to survey the damage; nor did he invite Shravan Kumar or Tashi Namgyal to witness the torn Koran. Whoever tore the pages from the book inflicted no damage on any other religious object.
However, a local feud might have prompted the act. Bodh Kharbu residents had sought permission from the residents of nearby Chiktan to rebuild Buddhist idols and a chorten located in the Shia-dominated village. The Shias had refused, demanding first the right to build a new mosque.
Two years ago, Musa said, someone had thrown a piece of rock through the mosque window; on another occasion, the safe containing donations from the occasional visitor had been robbed.
Whatever the truth, it is unlikely that the lifting of curfew in Ladakh will mark the end of its new communal war. Leh's business elites, who came up during the anti-Muslim trade boycott of 1989-1992, are already sensing opportunity. "I vow," reads an SMS message in Leh, "not to do business or have any social relations with any non-Buddhist."
While few in tourism-driven Ladakh can afford more violence this spring, there are many others who see profit in a slow campaign of hate.

Monday, 19 February, 2007

12 houses gutted in Kargil

Kargil: About twelve houses were gutted in a devastating fire at Kaksar in Ladakh region of the Jammu and Kashmir early hours Sunday, official sources said.They said the fire broke out in a house at Kaksar near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kargil sector of Ladakh region late last night.Sources said the fire spread to adjoining houses before Army and locals could control the leaping flames.About a dozen houses were gutted and some animals were killed in the fire, they said adding there was, no loss of human life.The fire was brought under control this morning jointly by the Army personnel deployed on the LoC and locals.

(Greater Kashmir, 19th february 2007)

Chocho-lay, a ladakhi video song

Thursday, 15 February, 2007

LBA / Islamia School (Kargil)

While revelers in New York were welcoming the New Year in Times Square, Muslims in Ladakh, especially in the Kargil area, were celebrating with religious fervor and solemnity the annual festival of Eid-ul-Azha. This festival, observed on the tenth day of the last month of the Islamic calendar, coincides with the last day of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, and this year with January 1 of the Western Christian calendar.
Eid-ul-Azha commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son on an altar to Allah. According to news reports, thousands of Muslims offered prayers in their mosques, after which they sacrificed cows, goats, sheep and camels at their homes. The meat was then consumed and shared with family, friends, and the poor. Children, dressed up for the occasion, visited relatives and exchanged gifts with their elders. In other years, religious and political leaders have often prayed publicly for peace during the solemn festival, saying the kinds of things leaders say on such occasions.
The Buddhists of Ladakh also marked the New Year, though they began to observe Losar (Lo meaning “year,” sar meaning “new”) last Thursday, December 28th. People in the primarily Buddhist district of Leh celebrated the beginning of the new year by swinging large fireballs, known as metho. Men whirled torches around in a fantastic procession through the streets until they finally tossed them away, well outside the town—their way of throwing out the old year and welcoming in the new. The Losar celebrations will last until the end of January.
Ladakhi Buddhists went to the major monastery in Leh to pay their obeisance to Maitreya Buddha and, according to Tshering Norbu Martey, a Buddhist scholar, to “pray for world peace.” They believe their rituals will assist the ancestors and help expel the evil, negative forces that exist in their villages. Observing Losar, they hope, will rid them from the miseries and sufferings of the old year and bring prosperity and happiness in the new. They celebrate the holiday by drinking, singing, dancing, and making merry, as well as by twirling their torches.
Meanwhile, factional political leaders in Ladakh welcomed the new year in their usual fashion. A newspaper report from Kargil indicated that the Ladakh Buddhist Association and an institution called the Islamia School in Kargil had reached an agreement to suspend many of the demands of their respective constituencies, such as Union Territory status, autonomy, special language requirements, and the like. Supposedly the two groups had even talked about requesting division status for Ladakh.
The District Congress Committee reacted with considerable alarm, condemning the unilateral action of the LBA, which it said had ignored the “confidence and consent of the people of Ladakh.” It called the LBA decision “extremely unscrupulous and vacuous.” The DCC also lashed out at another Buddhist group, the Ladakh Union Territory Front.
The LBA repeatedly denied that it had reached any such agreement with the Islamia School, and it criticized the DCC for its verbal attacks. The LBA alleged that the Congress party had provoked the situation on purpose on the eve of the Losar celebrations. According to the LBA press release, "even during the Losar celebrations, some miscreants tried to disrupt the function[s] … near the mosque so that a wrong message [would] go between the two communities.” The LBA also charged that the DCC statements were “an attempt to create misunderstanding between the Buddhists youths."
So while the people of the Muslim and Buddhist communities in Ladakh celebrate their festivals, political leaders make vacuous statements about peace and hurl charges and counter charges. Their attempts to stir up trouble may increase their popularity, at least temporarily, and they may help cement the pettiness of power in the new year.

(peacefulsocieties.org 4th january 2007)

Army to launch Everest expedition

An Army team will attempt to counquer Mount Everest in April from the North, considered the most difficult direction.
The 20-member team will be led by Lt Col I S Thapa of the Maratha Light Infantry.
The expedition, the fourth by the Army, would be flagged off in the second half of March, an official release here today said.
The final selection for the 20 members, of which 14 will be summiteers and six support staff, was carried out after a training session at Siachen.
The last expedition was an all-women expedition sucessfully completed in 2005.
The other two expeditions were launched successfully in 2001 and 2003.
For the current expedition, 80 personnel volunteered. From them, 45 were selected to undergo advanced mountaineering course at Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Manali. Thereafter the team carried out training by scaling Mount Bhagirthi-II (6510 M) and Mount Mana(7273 M) in the Garhwal region. Finally, 20 were selected after the training session at Siachen.

(Daily Excelsior, 14th febr.)

Wednesday, 14 February, 2007

First woman PhD from Ladakh

First woman PhD from ladakhKT NEWS SERVICE JAMMU, Feb 13: Zahida Bano has become the first lady of Ladakh region in acquiring the Ph.D degree. She was a Post Graduate student of History department from University of Jammu. At present, she is discharging her duty as Assistant Regional Transport Officer Ladakh. Her topic of the thesis was "Socio-political condition of Ladakh during Medieval period (1400-1725AD)". She has also cleared the National Eligibility Test for lecturership conducted by the UGC.

(Kashmir Times, 14th febr. 2007)

Monday, 12 February, 2007

Ladakhi vocabulary 1

Nowadays most Ladakhis, mainly in Leh town, understand and speak urdu/hindi or English. However, learning some ladakhi will bring you closer to the people and help you a lot, especially in villages.
Few words and their pronounciation vary accross Ladakh, however, most people will still understand the following expressions.

ju-le [dju-lay] - hello, good morning, please, goodbye
"le" is an honorific, polite particle added to the end of words, names and sentences to show respect to the listener. In a less fornal style, can be replace by "he".

Khoda hafiz - Urdu word used by Muslims to say Goodbye
("God protect you")

ot-ju(he) / ot-ju-le - Thank you

Bakhshish* - Thank you (in Kargil region / Suru valley)

ju-ju - Please (insisting)

Khamzang ina-le ? - Are you well ?

Theek ina-(le) / theek yoda ? - How are you ?

kasa(-le) / o(-le) - Yes, okay, i agree.

Man(-le) - No

Ha-go-a ? - Do you understand ?

Ha-go / Ha-ma-go - I understand / I don't understand

dik dik / dik-le (polite) - That's enough

dig-a ? - Is it enough / okay ?

chenna ! - Let's go !

ltoks-a rak - I'm hungry

tagi - bread

bato - rice

tagi yoda / duga ? - Is there some bread ?

duk / mi-ruk - there is [some] / there isn't [any]

kharji - food

cha / solja (honorific) - tea
namkin / gurgur cha - butter tea

Chi song ? - What happen ?

Chi lo ? - What "said" ? (What did you/he/she say ?)

tangmo rak - it's cold

tchu-skol khyong ! - Bring boiled water !

dul-a mi-ruk - It's not working

thore / askya (in Kargil region) - Tomorrow

ngatok / ngarmo (Kargil) - Morning

Phitok - Evening

tshan - Night

gyokhspa / dakhsa* - soon / now

Nam - When

Nam lokste yong-at-a ? - When will you come back

Nga gyokhspa lokste yong-at - I'm coming back soon

* in most cases, 'kh' is pronounced "rrh" like German "acht" or Arabic "Khaled". However, when followed by a vowel, it's sometimes pronounced 'k', like in "khyong" (bring).

Quand Bollywood tourne au Ladakh...

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Mann ki lagan

Sunday, 11 February, 2007

Bouddhisme et Islam: histoire d'une cohabitation vieille de 600 ans

La coexistence au Ladakh des traditions bouddhiques et islamique est loin d’être récente. De nombreux vestiges antiques témoignent toutefois des racines bouddhiques extrêmement anciennes de cette région, et sur une zone s’étendant jusqu’aux provinces cachemiries, pakistanaises et afghanes aujourd’hui intégralement musulmanes.

Le Ladakh comme le Tibet, avant que le Bouddhisme n’y pénètre par le Cachemire, était dominé par la religion Bön, dont le bouddhisme tibétain, en particulier la secte Nying-ma-pa[1], a conservé de nombreux éléments. C’est aux alentours du 1er siècle après J.-C. que les premières incursions bouddhistes ont lieu au Ladakh, par l’intermédiaire des missionnaires du roi Asoka. Au 8ème siècle, le grand sage bouddhiste Padmasambhava visite le Zanskar et le Ladakh et y introduit le courant Nying-ma-pa. C’est plus tard, entre 1010 et 1400 que les courants Kargyu-pa (Drug-pa et Drigung-pa), Saskya-pa et Gelug-pa, les plus répandus dans la région aujourd’hui, s’y développent.[2]
C’est également durant cette période que Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo, grand érudit tibétain, traducteur et missionnaire bouddhiste, visite la région et y construit de nombreux chorten et gompa[3], dont celui d’Alchi.
Au huitième siècle, les affrontements entre les armées musulmanes et les Tibétains, dans la région de Gilgit et au Turkestan chinois (Xinjiang), marquent les premiers contacts entre le Ladakh et l’islam.
C’est toutefois vers 1394 que l’islam entre à proprement parler au Ladakh, par l’intermédiaire du grand missionnaire persan et Saint soufi Mir Seyed Ali Hamadani, qui traverse le Ladakh sur sa route vers Kashgar (Xinjiang). Souvent décrit comme le fondateur de la foi islamique au Cachemire, il aurait construit plusieurs mosquées au Ladakh.
Au 15ème siècle, l’un de ses disciples, Seyed Mohammad Noor Baksh, visite le Baltistan et le Purig (région de Kargil) et convertit ces régions. Ses disciples, connus sous le nom de Noorbakshis, forment jusqu’à aujourd’hui un groupe à part, présent uniquement au Baltistan et au Ladakh (vallée de la Nubra). Ce courant à tendance soufie se rapproche davantage du chiisme que du sunnisme, et ses adeptes partagent avec les Chiites certains évènements et cérémonies religieuses.
En 1505, Shams-ud-Din Iraqi, érudit chiite d’origine iraquienne, se rend également dans le Purig et au Baltistan, et y répand encore davantage la doctrine chiite. La région de Leh reste cependant un peu à l’écart des influences islamiques, jusqu’au début du 17ème siècle.[4]

Vers l’an 1600, le roi ladakhi Jamyang Namgyal est fait prisonnier par Ali Sher Khan, gouverneur de Skardu, à la suite d’une défaite militaire. Pour être libéré, il se voit alors contraint d’accepter une alliance avec ce dernier et de lui donner sa fille en mariage. Le vainqueur lui offre également la main de sa propre fille, la Princesse Gyal Khatun, à condition qu’il se convertisse à l’islam et que l’enfant de cette union soit le seul héritier du trône du Ladakh. Cette union entre un roi bouddhiste et une princesse Balti sera la première d’une longue série, qui permettront à l’islam chiite de s’implanter plus durablement au Ladakh et d’y asseoir sa légitimité.
De nombreux serviteurs et servantes Balti, ainsi que des musiciens, suivent la princesse à Leh et s’établissent dans les villages voisins de Shey et de Chushot, sur les rives de l’Indus. Leurs descendants seraient aujourd’hui près de 6000. [5]
Le Roi Jamyang Namgyal fait également venir à la cour sept marchands cachemiris sunnites réputés. Des terres leur sont allouées en retour des services rendus par ces derniers à la cour. La plupart de ces « marchands du Palais » épousent des femmes ladakhies bouddhistes. Leurs descendants vivent encore de nos jours à Leh et dans ses environs.

Pour elle-même et pour sa cour, la princesse Gyal Khatun fait construire des mosquées chiites à Leh et à Shey. Cela n’empêche toutefois pas les Bouddhistes de voir en elle une incarnation de la déesse sGrol-ma (Tara blanche).

Cette période de l’histoire reste jusqu’à aujourd’hui très présente dans l’esprit des Ladakhis, qui s’y réfèrent souvent. Ainsi, un jeune chiite de 26 ans déclare : « Here in Leh, there are lots of mosques, but it’s because of that king, Jamyang Namgyal, who married that Gyal Khatun from Baltistan. He was completely fallen in her love, so he built 3-4 mosques himself, in his time, for Muslims. In Phyang, Chushot area, people are Gyal Khatun’s servants ancestors ».[6]

De cette union royale, que la tradition populaire transforme en une légende romantique, naît celui qui restera dans les mémoires comme le plus grand roi du Ladakh, Sengge Namgyal (« le lion victorieux »). Bouddhiste convaincu, comme son père Jamyang, il lui succède vers 1616, sous la régence de sa mère.[7]

En 1638, le roi Sengge Namgyal doit faire face à une incursion des troupes mogholes de l’Empereur Shah Jahan dans l’ouest du Ladakh. En représailles, il interdit aux marchands cachemiris d’entrer dans la région, mesure qui nuit alors plus au Ladakh qu’au Cachemire…
Sengge Namgyal laisse toutefois son empreinte sur le paysage ladakhi plus que tout autre roi. On lui doit notamment le monastère de Hemis, connu comme étant le plus riche de la région, ainsi que l’imposant palais royal de Leh, édifice de neuf étages surplombant la ville.

A l’ouest de Leh, le grand roi ne parvient toutefois pas à battre les armées musulmanes. Voulant reconquérir des provinces du Purig perdues par son père, il se heurte aux troupes mogholes et balties à Bodh Kharbu et perd la bataille. Son fils, Deldan Namgyal, subit les conséquences de cette défaite en 1663, à l’occasion de la visite de l’Empereur Aurangzeb au Cachemire. Sengge Namgyal n’ayant jamais versé à ce dernier le tribut qu’il s’était engagé à payer, son fils doit à nouveau prêter allégeance à l’Empereur. Il s’engage en outre à construire une mosquée sunnite à Leh, à œuvrer pour la propagation de l’islam au Ladakh et à ce que la khutba[8] y soit récitée. La grande mosquée sunnite de Leh, Jama Masjid, est édifiée environ trois ans plus tard, au centre du bazaar.

En 1670, le roi Deldan voit ses relations avec le Tibet voisin se détériorer. Il prend en effet l’initiative d’afficher son soutien à l’égard du royaume du Bhutan, d’orientation Drug-pa, dans un conflit qui oppose ce royaume au Tibet Ge-lugs-pa, et envoie une missive au 5ème Dalaï- lama, alors à la tête de cet ordre réformé. Ce dernier réagit en envoyant une partie de ses troupes vers le Ladakh.
L’armée tibétaine ne dépasse pas 5000 hommes, mais les projets de construction extravagants de Sengge Namgyal, l’argent dépensé dans l’envoi de missionnaires au Tibet et sa décision de stopper les échanges commerciaux avec le Cachemire ont énormément affaibli l’économie locale.
Devant les Tibétains, l’armée du roi Deldan n’a pas d’autre issue que de se retrancher dans la forteresse de Basgo, à une quarantaine de kilomètre à l’ouest de Leh. Après trois ans de résistance, les Ladakhis finissent par demander son soutien à l’armée du Cachemire, afin de repousser leurs adversaires.
Les Cachemiris n’acceptent cependant de se retirer de la région qu’à la condition que les Ladakhis leurs paient un lourd tribut. Ils se voient notamment contraints d’accorder aux Moghols l’exclusivité dans l’achat de pashm, et sur toute la production du Tibet occidental et du Ladakh. Le roi Deldan est en outre obligé de se convertir à l’islam, et prend le nom d’Aqibat Mahmud Khan. L’un de ses fils est par ailleurs envoyé au Cachemire pour y recevoir une éducation islamique, loin des influences bouddhistes.

La tentative des Moghols de faire du Ladakh une terre islamique, dirigée par une dynastie musulmane se révèle cependant être un échec. L’adhésion de Deldan à sa nouvelle religion ne dépasse pas le stade de la déclaration formelle, et bien que l’islam progresse à l’ouest, la grande majorité des habitants de la vallée de l’Indus restent des Bouddhistes convaincus.

De leur côté, les Tibétains sont consterné d’apprendre la conversion du roi du Ladakh à l’islam. En 1684, ils envoient un émissaire au Ladakh, qui rencontre le roi dans son palais de Timosgang, afin de lui imposer des conditions qu’il n’est pas en position de refuser. Le Traité de Timosgang fixe les frontières actuelles entre le Tibet et le Ladakh, qui perd ainsi la province de Nyima-Gon, reconquise par Sengge Namgyal une cinquantaire d’années plus tôt.

Depuis la fin du 17ème siècle, du fait de la mainmise Cachemirie sur sa politique, le Ladakh ne jouit plus d’une réelle indépendance. La région devient une sorte de territoire tampon entre les terres musulmanes et le Tibet bouddhiste, dont il se devait d’empêcher l’entrée à toute armée indienne, selon un accord.[9]

Le roi Jamyang Namgyal, qui vers 1600, s’était marié à la princesse baltie Gyal Khatun, ne fut pas le seul à devoir se convertir à l’islam et à épouser une femme musulmane. Environ un siècle plus tard, le roi Nyima Namgyal épouse à des fins stratégiques la petite-fille du gouverneur de Khapalu (Baltistan), Zizi Khatun, et par la suite, de nombreux souverains ladakhis épousent également des femmes musulmanes du Purig (région de Kargil).[10] Notons que ces épouses musulmanes appartenaient toutes à la communauté chiite.

Les Ladakhis font le plus souvent référence à ce lointain passé en des termes très positifs. Les erreurs stratégiques du roi Sengge Namgyal sont généralement passées sous silence, ou excusées (« tous les grands hommes politiques font des erreurs ! »), et les nombreuses unions entre rois ladakhis et princesses chiites sont avancées comme des preuve de l’entente légendaire entre ces deux communautés.

Du 17ème au 20ème siècle, les relations du Ladakh avec le Cachemire ne s’améliorent pas. Après l’indépendance, la région, qui était sous les ordres du Maharaja dogra Hari Singh, est remise à l’Etat du Cachemire, alors dirigé par le Sheikh Abdullah et son administration très centralisée.
Dans les années ’60, les velléités indépendantistes bouddhistes commencent à se faire sentir, et l’on assiste aux premières émeutes intercommunautaires dans le district de Leh.

Malgré ce passé tumultueux, la majorité des Ladakhis se souvient de l’avant 1989, année où éclatent les troubles intercommunautaires les plus graves, comme d’un passé plutôt paisible, où la fraternité prévalait sur les différences religieuses.
Contre les guerres avec les provinces du Cachemire et du Tibet voisins, tous les Ladakhis, étaient unis ; les Musulmans ladakhis, majoritairement chiites, ne s’identifiant pas plus aux Cachemiris que les Bouddhistes. Les relations entre les deux communautés étaient certainement beaucoup plus harmonieuses que ce n’est le cas aujourd’hui, et les mariages intercommunautaires étaient courants.

Opposant les Ladakhis entre eux, l’agitation de 1989 marquera un tournant décisif dans les relations entre les communautés chiites, sunnites et bouddhistes.

[1] Le Nying-ma-pa (« l’ancien courant ») est l’ordre monastique le plus ancien du bouddhisme tibétain. Basé notamment sur les enseignements du grand sage Padmasambhava, il met l’emphase sur la méditation solitaire et les pratiques tantriques. Au Ladakh, le seul monastère Nying-ma-pa est celui de Tak-Thog, construit autour d’une grotte où Padmasambhava aurait séjourné.
[2] cf. Gyaltsen Jamyang, The introduction of Buddhism in Ladakh, in: Osmaton Henry, Tsering Nawang (éd.), Recent research on Ladakh 6, p. 117-119.
[3] Rinchen Zangpo aurait construit 108 gompa et autant de chorten du Mont Kailash au col du Zoji-La (à l’ouest de Kargil), (cf. Thsangspa Tashi Ldawa, Ladakh Book of Records : a general knowledge book about Ladakh, p. 4.). Les chorten sont des structures religieuses bouddhistes généralement construites à l’entrée des villages et des gompa, et devant être contournées dans le sens des aiguilles d’une montre.
[4] cf. Ghani Sheikh Abdul, A Brief History of Muslims in Ladakh, in: Osmaton Henry, Denwood Philip (éd.), Recent Research on Ladakh 4&5: Proceedings of the Fourth and Fifth International Colloquia on Ladakh, p. 189-190.
[5] cf. Ghani Sheikh Abdul, A Brief History of Muslims in Ladakh, in: Osmaton Henry, Denwood Philip (éd.), Recent Research on Ladakh 4&5: Proceedings of the Fourth and Fifth International Colloquia on Ladakh, p. 189-190.
[7] cf. Rizvi Janet, Ladakh : Crossroads of High Asia, p. 67.
[8] Khutba signifie « prône » et consiste en une allocution de nature politique avant la prière du vendredi, affirmant la hiérarchie légitime des gouvernants (ici, les empereurs Moghols).
[9] cf. Rizvi Janet, Ladakh : Crossroads of High Asia, p. 70-74
[10] cf. Dollfus Pascale, Ethnohistoire des Musulmans du Ladakh Central, in : , in: Osmaton Henry, Denwood Philip (éd.), Recent Research on Ladakh 4&5: Proceedings of the Fourth and Fifth International Colloquia on Ladakh, p. 296-297.


Le Ladakh, aux confins de l'Inde

Ancien royaume himalayen, le Ladakh se situe à l’extrême nord-ouest de l’Inde et constitue l’une des trois région de l’Etat du Jammu et Cachemire, à savoir, le Cachemire, où se trouve Srinagar, la capitale d’été ; Jammu, où se trouve la ville du même nom et capitale d’hiver, et le Ladakh.

Au nord et à l’est, le Ladakh fait frontière avec le Tibet, tandis qu’au nord-ouest, il est bordé par la région pakistanaise du Baltistan, qui lui était rattachée jusqu’en 1947. Skardu, capitale du Baltistan, aujourd’hui en territoire pakistanais, était alors la capitale d’hiver du Ladakh, et Leh, la capitale d’été.
Au sud du Ladakh se trouve l’Etat indien d’Himachal Pradesh, que traverse l’une des deux routes reliant la région aux plaines indiennes six mois sur douze.
Cette contrée, où l’altitude des zones habitées s’échelonne entre 2700 mètres près de Kargil, à plus de 4500 mètres sur les hauts plateaux du Changthang, est traversée du sud-est au nord-ouest par trois massif montagneux, plus où moins parallèles, qui sont, au nord, la chaîne du Karakoram, au centre, les chaînes du Ladakh et du Zanskar, et au sud, la chaîne du Grand Himalaya. Le sommet le plus élevé du Ladakh, dans la chaîne du Karakoram, est le Saser Kangri, qui culmine à 7672 m.
Le glacier de Siachen, connu comme étant le plus grand glacier au monde en dehors des zones polaires, constitue également, au nord-ouest, l’une des frontières du Ladakh avec le Pakistan.

L’Indus, ou Sengge Khababs (« Le fleuve lion » en ladakhi), prend sa source près du Mont Kailash, au Tibet, et constitue le cour d’eau le plus important du Ladakh. Son principal affluent est au nord, la rivière Shyok, et au sud, la rivière Zanskar.

Le Ladakh, « Ladags » en ladakhi, tirerait son nom du tibétain La-dags (« pays des cols »). La région a toutefois été connue sous différents noms au cours des siècles. On peut entre autre citer Maryul (« pays rouge »), Skor-gsum (« Tibet occidental ») ou encore Khachumpa (« pays de la neige »).[1]

Le Ladakh compte deux districts, Leh et Kargil, qui jouissent d’un statut de semi autonomie au sein de l’Etat de Jammu & Kashmir, depuis quelques années. Suite à l’agitation de 1989, dont il sera question plus loin, un gouvernement local, le Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) a été fondé à Leh, en 1995. En 2003, un Hill Council semblable a été créé à Kargil.
Le district de Kargil compte deux Tehsil[2] : Kargil et le Zanskar, et est subdivisé en sept blocs. Le district de Leh, qui forme un Tehsil à lui-seul, couvre une surface de 60'000 km. et constitue le district le plus vaste et le plus élevé d’Inde, tout en étant le moins densément peuplé du pays, avec une moyenne de 3 habitants au km2. Kargil est légèrement plus peuplé, avec 8 habitants au Km2.[3]

La ville de Leh compte environ 30'000 habitant, et constitue l’agglomération la plus importante du Ladakh. On y trouve le seul aéroport civil de la région, le plus élevé au monde, ainsi que nombre d’infrastructures modernes pour la plupart encore absentes dans le reste de la région. Surplombé par l’ancien palais royal et plus haut, par le col du Khardung-La (5600 m.), l’ancien bazaar de Leh domine la vallée de l’Indus de quelques centaines de mètres, et fait face à la chaîne du Zanskar. La ville et ses faubourgs, qui compte d’importantes bases militaires et des colonies de réfugiés tibétains, s’étendent aujourd’hui jusqu’aux rives de l’Indus.

Kargil, qui compte environ 10'000 habitants, est le chef-lieu du deuxième district du Ladakh, et se trouve à une altitude de 2704 mètres. Le nom « Kargil » viendrait de Khar rKil (« la place entre les châteaux ») ou de Gar Khil (« quelque part où l’on peut séjourner »), selon différentes interprétations[4]. Kargil se situe à une distance à peu près égale (200 Km) de Srinagar, Leh, Skardu et Padum (chef-lieu du Zanskar), et a de ce fait toujours servi de point d’étape aux voyageurs entre ces différentes localités. La fermeture du passage vers Skardu suite aux troubles liées à la partition a toutefois nuis au développement économique de la région, et séparé de nombreuses familles.
La ville, sur les rives de la rivière Suru, reste une étape incontournable sur le trajet entre Srinagar et Leh, mais les voyageurs ne s’y attardent rarement plus d’une nuit.

Kargil, dont la population est à 85% chiite, dans un Etat à majorité sunnite et une région dominée par la culture bouddhiste, n’a pas connu le développement économique et touristique de sa voisine et rivale, Leh.
Les évènements de cette dernière décennie expliquent en partie les difficultés rencontrées par ce district. La guerre de Kargil, déclenchée en mai 1999 sur les hauteurs de la ville, par le Général Pervez Musharraf, alors chef d’Etat Major de l’armée pakistanaise, a duré trois mois et fait plus de 500 morts du côté indien. Les bombardements sporadiques sur la ville et ses environs se sont poursuivis jusqu’en 2002 et restent très présents dans les mémoires.
La corruption et les désaccords entre les différentes tendances au sein de la communauté chiite du district contribuent également à en freiner le développement.

En dehors de ces deux localités d’une certaine importance, le Ladakh compte de nombreux villages, de taille très variable[5]. Ayant été dans leur grande majorité électrifiés, l’électricité n’y est en réalité généralement disponible que quelques heures en soirée, ce qui est périodiquement aussi le cas à Leh et à Kargil[6].

De l’est de Kargil jusqu’à Leh, la plupart des localités sont à majorité bouddhiste, et comptent en général un gompa, « monastère », qui surplombe souvent le village. La taille de ces établissements religieux varie considérablement, ils peuvent en effet compter d’un moine jusqu’à plus d’une centaine. Les gompa entretiennent une relation d’interdépendance avec les villages qui leur sont rattachés, et subsistent principalement grâce aux donations que les villageois font aux moines en retour de leurs prestations religieuses. Traditionnellement, dans chaque village, des terres cultivables appartiennent également au monastère, et les habitants se chargent de les moissonner.

Cette région isolée, malgré son altitude élevée, reçoit très peu de précipitations. La chaîne du Grand Himalaya empêche en effet les nuages de la mousson des plaines indiennes de l’atteindre. Les glaciers surplombant les vallées constituent donc la principale source d’eau de la région. Leurs torrents, canalisés, permettent alors l’irrigation des champs à la fonte des neiges et durant tout l’été. Le Ladakh doit toutefois faire face, depuis quelques années, à des changements climatiques dus au réchauffement de la planète. Les étés tendent à être plus chauds, les hivers plus rudes, et l’on observe également une hausse des précipitations[7].

L’aridité du sol, le climat extrême et l’isolement géographique du Ladakh rendent les conditions de vie dans cette région très ardues. Les hivers longs et rigoureux doivent être préparés pendant les quatre mois d’été. Dès le mois de mai, on commence à couper du bois, en prévision des mois froids, ou à faire des provisions en kérosène, selon le mode de chauffage utilisé. Ceux qui en ont les moyens achètent également du riz, de la farine et des lentilles en grande quantité, ces produits de première nécessité étant rationnés pendant l’hiver.
La fermeture officielle des deux routes d’accès à la région du 15 novembre au 15 mai, oblige en outre les autorités locales, avec l’aide de l’armée, à préparer les stocks de vivres qui permettront de subvenir aux besoins de la population pendant ces six mois d’isolement.

Les fruits et légumes, provenant surtout du Pendjab et des autres régions du Cachemire, parviennent à Leh par camion pendant l’été, et y sont vendus à un prix relativement élevé. L’hiver, surtout quand il touche à sa fin et que les stocks de vivres sont épuisés, oblige les Ladakhis à se contenter d’un régime alimentaire des plus spartiate. Les fruits frais deviennent alors introuvables dans toute la région, à l’exception de quelques pommes; quant aux légumes conservables, la récolte locale étant plutôt maigre, ils se font également rares en hiver. A la fin de la saison froide, la viande vient aussi à manquer : une fois les quotas de moutons, chèvres et yacks à abattre atteints, les Ladakhis doivent s’en passer jusqu’à la réouverture des routes.

Aujourd’hui, certains choisissent d’aller passer les mois les plus froids à Jammu ou dans d’autres villes du nord-ouest de l’Inde, comme Chandigarh ou Delhi, afin d’échapper à la dureté de l’hiver. La majorité reste toutefois au Ladakh et ne se plaint que rarement de cette vie frugale. Les activités étant ralenties et les touristes absents, l’hiver est aussi l’occasion de passer plus de temps en famille et entre amis. Les grandes vacances scolaires ont lieu durant cette saison, de nombreux mariages sont célébrés et beaucoup de festivals, dont Losar, le Nouvel An tibétain, prennent place à ce moment de l’année.

Un portrait du Ladakh serait incomplet sans un mot au sujet du thé au beurre salé ou gurgur-cha: ce breuvage commun à tout le plateau tibétain est indubitablement le produit de prédilection des Ladakhis, qui en consomment facilement plus d’une trentaine de petites tasses par jour. Réchauffant en hiver, hydratant en été, et présent à chaque occasion, cette boisson ne connaît toutefois qu’un très maigre succès auprès des visiteurs occidentaux ; se la voir offrir étant un signe de respect, il est toutefois de bon ton de l’accepter d’un air réjoui…

[1] cf. Thsangspa Tashi Ldawa, Ladakh book of records : a general knowledge book of Ladakh, p. 18.
[2] Le Tehsil est une unité administrative propre à l’Inde, plus petite que le district
[3] cf. Census of India, 2001.
[4] cf. http://kargil.nic.in/, site web officiel du district de Kargil
[5] Le village de Chushot, situé sur les rives de l’Indus, en contrebas de Leh, est connu au Ladakh comme étant le plus long village d’Inde. Cette affirmation reste toutefois à vérifier…
[6] Les centrales électriques actuelles ne suffisant pas à satisfaire la demande croissante en énergie, celle-ci est donc rationnée, et sa consommation est sujette à des contrôles strictes. Il est ainsi interdit, à Leh comme partout dans la région, de posséder des chauffages électriques, des chauffe eaux, ou encore des ampoules au voltage trop élevé. Les résidents paient toutefois une facture d’électricité équivalent à un service continu ; face à cette situation vécue comme injuste, les fraudes sont donc nombreuses. Les nouvelles installations hydro-électriques en cours de construction devraient toutefois améliorer la situation d’ici 2010.
[7] Les inondations qui ont affecté la région en juillet-août 2006, les plus importantes depuis plus de quatre-vingts ans, ont fait une vingtaine de morts, détruit des villages entiers, et causé le déplacement de plus de 3000 personnes.