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Ladakhi tribe known for liberal customs struggling to preserve cultural legacy

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Jan 20: A tribe of Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region known for its liberal customs and ornate costumes is struggling to keep its vibrant cultural legacy alive and has requested the central government to make serious interventions.

The rich heritage of the Dard Aryans — believed to be the original descendants of “pure Aryan race” — is under threat due to rapid mordenisation, migration and religious conversion, experts say.

The Dard Aryans inhabit Dha, Hanu, Beema, Darchik and Garkone villages in Leh and Kargil districts. The villages are together called the Aryan valley.

 

The people of this region are completely different from those in other parts of Ladakh. They have unique physical features, social life, ethnic culture, and language. They consume the milk and meat of goat and sheep only and follow the solar calendar for festivals and agricultural activities, the experts say.

Many researchers believe that the “Aryans of Ladakh” or the “Brokpas” were part of Alexander’s army and had come to the region over 2,000 years ago, an official of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) says.

The tribe is considered “threatened” due to their depleting numbers, which, at present, is around 4,000. They are mainly dependent on agriculture and are “educationally and economically backward”, he says.

The Dard Aryans do not document their history and they have carried forward their cultural legacy orally. Most of them have embraced Islam or Buddhism and modernisation has had a negative impact on their traditions, he claims.

Virendra Bangroo, a IGNCA scholar who has conducted extensive research on the tribe, says “Dard” is derived from a Sanskrit word, “Daradas”, which means people who live on hillsides.
“The community prohibits marriage with outsiders to keep the gene pool intact. Of late, the Dard men have been migrating to other parts of the region (in search of livelihood) and marrying outside the tribe,” he says.
The tribe has been struggling to find a balance between modernity and traditional values, Bangroo says.
Members of the tribe participating in a six-day festival, ‘Arya Utsav’, here say the tribe follows liberal customs and kissing in the public is considered normal.
Many people also believe the tribe indulges in the practices of polygamy and polyandry, but the members say such customs are a rarity now.
The community members claim there are only three high schools in their villages and very limited resources of livelihood — mainly because of the harsh weather and difficult terrain. As such, they have no option but to migrate to cities for higher education and employment.
To deal with the problem, they say the government should set up a tribal hostel in the region and declare the Aryan valley a heritage village to boost tourism.
A delegation of the Dard Aryans also submitted a charter of demands to Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Sudarshan Bhagat on Friday.
“So far, the government has not been able to anything for the Dard Aryans. Its policies and programmes have failed to reach them. People in the mainland are generally oblivious to the tribe,” Bangroo rues.


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Kashmir

Mirwaiz condemns assault on Kashmiris, terms it ‘unfortunate’

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Srinagar, Feb 16: Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Saturday strongly denounced the attack on Kashmiris in several parts of India.
In a statement issued, Mirwaiz said it is incumbent upon those ruling in these Indian states and the Governor in Jammu to control these elements and ensure the safety of Kashmiris wherever they are being attacked and harassed and their properties vandalized and burnt down.
“Kashmiris are thrashed, intimidated and properties of hundreds of Kashmiri students, laborers, businessmen are vandalized in various Indian states,” he said.
Mirwaiz said that fanatic elements have got a great excuse and are let loose, having a field day in executing their communal agenda by targeting Kashmiris.
Mirwaiz said reports of violence against Kashmiris simply studying or doing their work outside is very distressing. He said people of Kashmir are known for their all-out help and support to outsiders who visit us as tourists or Yatris whenever in need. But it is extremely unfortunate that they are being targeted and assaulted and the majority is silent over it.
Mirwaiz said it is also sad that members of civil society activists or even leadership of Jammu are not speaking out against the assault on Kashmiri’s there and playing its role in stopping it.
Meanwhile, Hurriyat spokesman strongly condemned the CASO in Pulwama, Kulgam and Tral areas of south Kashmir wherein dozens of youth after being harassed are detained while inmates kept out of their homes for hours together, household goods and vehicles vandalized stating that lacs of forces deployed across Kashmir have been enjoying complete impunity resulting in the immense problems being inflicting on the innocent Kashmiris.
The spokesman also condemned the arrest of senior Hurriyat leader Mukhtar Waza who has been lodged in police station Sherbagh, Islamabad.

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Kashmir

Bar condemns assault on Kashmiris

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Srinagar, Feb 16: J&K High Court Bar Association Srinagar (JKHBA) strongly condemned the harassing, beating, abusing and intimidating of Kashmiri Muslims in different parts of country.

Calling for an end to these atrocities, Bar has appealed the International Community including United Nations, Amnesty International, Asia Watch and other human rights organizations of the world as also members of Indian Civil Society to come to the rescue of the people of Kashmir and save them from the brutalities being inflicted on them by the ruthless communal and fanatic forces of Jammu and other places of India.
In an Executive Committee meeting held here today it was stated that Kashmiri Muslims living in Jammu and the Muslims of Jammu are so frightened that they stayed back in their homes on Friday and did not offer Friday prayers to avoid being targeted.

“At several places, the Govt. owned residential quarters in which Kashmiri Govt. employees are putting up were stoned by these hoodlums belonging to RSS and other Hindu fanatic groups and the police did not stop them from doing so and watched the same as silent spectators, which is highly deplorable,” they said.

 

Bar further said that in Bihar, Dehradun, Chandigarh, Aligarh and other parts of India, Kashmiri students have been beaten to pulp and asked to leave those places forthwith, which is barbaric and shameful.

The Bar members took out a procession from District Court Complex, Moominabad Batamaloo, Srinagar, in which hundreds of lawyers participated and while raising slogans against all the communal and fanatic forces, asked he authorities to give protection to Kashmiri Muslims, who are presently in Jammu or in any other part of India and ensure their safety and security at all costs, as otherwise, if the harassing, abusing beating and teasing of Kashmiri and Jammu Muslims is not stopped forthwith, it will have serious repercussions.

In order to show solidarity with their Kashmiri brethren, the Bar Association also decided to support the call given by Kashmir Traders Federation for 17th of February, 2019.

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Kashmir

Lethpora attack aftermath: Youth who rescued 21 soldiers in 2014 floods among 8 arrested in Pulwama

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Pulwama, Feb 16: A day after the audacious attack on a CRPF convoy, government forces conducted nocturnal raids and arrested over 8 youth.
Reports said that the raids were conducted in different parts of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district including Lelhar, Hatiwara Letapora, Ratnipora and Lelhar.

Police sources said that over 8 youth were arrested. All these people are considered as the militant ‘sympathizers’, said a source.
Interestingly, one of the arrested youth Asif Muzafar Shah of Samboora had played a key role in rescuing a coloumn of armymen in 2014 devastating floods. The services of Shah were hailed by army then when he rescued 21 soldiers during devastating floods.

Sources added that government forces also picked up father-son duo from Hatiwara Letpora village. A top Jaish-e-Muhammad militant Mufti Waqas was killed in a house at Hatiwara last year. The owner of the house and his son were arrested during the nocturnal raid, said locals.

 

Government Forces have also made arrests from Tral and other areas after the Lethpora attack that claimed the lives of 49 troopers.
A police official feigned ignorance about these arrests.

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