Intro: The Book has presented before us a unique think regarding the place called –Turtuk. Turtuk Unveiled which is first literary work of its kind on Indian side of Baltistan, throws light on Indian side of Baltistan. It also sheds light on the history of the region which is dominated by the Balti tribal.
Turtuk Unveiled; Dr Kavita Suri ; Publisher: Shubhi Publications, Gurgaon Rs 1475.00, Pp 162
Jammu and Kashmir State is blessed with variegated topography, vegetation, climate, culture and people. The frontier areas of the state have its own importance for the strategic reasons for the rulers of the state and when it acceded to India in the backdrop of the partition of the country. However, it assumed political prominence for different reasons.
The imperial British overlords and the communal forces, who enjoyed their patronage, were hell bent on destabilising the state. It suited them to maintain their stranglehold over the Northern areas of the state.
Dogra rulers who defined the geographical and political boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir in terms of viable administrative purpose kept a keen eye on the ethnic tribe that lived in Gilgit and Baltistan. Their culture, tradition and way of life needed to be understood in order to govern the people.
Turtuk Unveiled written by Dr Kavita Suri is a well known book and it is a welcome addition to the archival and research material available on the tribes of Turtuk. Here It would be pertinent to mention that the British paid significant attention to Gilgit as far its strategic value was concerned since the it was at the centre stage of the intrigues which were made to destabilise the defence of country. In this effort Baltistan was affected automatically as the region has the geographical proximity to Gilgit.
People of this area have been suffering but, it goes to their credit that they have been able to retain their smile in spite of the inhospitable terrain. Dr Kavita Suri’s book “Turtuk Unveiled “should be seen in this backdrop as it places Turtuk in proper perspective.
The book has been divided in 12 chapters including acknowledgements, foreword, introduction, references and Index. Author has utilised her skill as a professional journalist and photographer to give the vivid and pictorial description of Turtuk besides the well researched text. The book reveals the professional competence of Dr Kavita Suri in terms of presenting the text photographs. Her vast experience as a reputed journalist since he was associated with various newspapers like the Statesman. Her proficiency as an academician has added value to the book.
Book presents a unique issue regarding its place –Turtuk. Jacket of the book very much explains the crisis the people of here faced and sets the tone for the reader as to why this book should be read about the place generally known as Turtuk in the Ladakh region of the Jammu and Kashmir state. It reads: “Turtuk, small place nestling at the farthest end of Nubra valley in Ladakh has a unique history. It was part of Baltistan. It had remained with Pakistan for a long time and then was reunited with India. ‘Turtuk Unveiled’ which is first literary work of its kind on Indian side of Baltistan, throws light on Indian side of Baltistan, sheds light on the history of the region which is dominated by the Balti tribals.”
Describing the location of the place, she writes in her book “Situated amid the mighty Himalayas and Karakorum mountain ranges in northern Pakistan and Ladakh, Baltistan or Baltiyal (Land of Baltis or Homeland of Baltis as is popularly known in Balti language) is the historical junction of the Buddhist and Islamic worlds.”(pp 40)
Remarkably, Balti is the prominent tribe of this area. It was during the expedition and conquest of General Zorawar Singh that this region became the frontline of Jammu and Kashmir. Giving the historical background and writing about the conquest, Dr Kavita Suri says in the book, “By the summer of 1840, General Zorawar Singh had conquered the whole of Baltistan.. In place of Ahmed Shah, his eldest son Muhammad Shah was made the king. Thus, Baltistan came under the Dogras.”(pp 48)
Elaborating further she says, “Turtuk has an interesting history. From 1947-48 onwards till 1947, it was part of Pakistan and many villagers living in these areas were working with Pakistani army mostly posted in the northern area of Gilgit-Baltistan. Thang Top and Trig heights in the area are still under the occupation of pakistan overlooking Turtuk Valley. Just down below, Thang village on Indian side is thickly populated and so is Franoo village on the other side in Pak-occupied Kashmir. In 1971, India launched an operation to liberate Turtuk and reunited it with Ladakh.”(pp 66). Turtuk remained under Pakistani occupation till 1971 and it was during the Bangladesh liberation war that this area came under the ambit of theatre of war, leading to the reunification of this area with India.
People of Turtuk have witnessed the administration of both Pakistan and India. It is who have shaped their perception in terms of identity and at present it has lead to identity crisis. The book deals with various aspects of this issue and can act as a guide for the policy makers to devise mechanism to develop this area.
The Book gives a detailed description of traditions; culture and way Baltis live. The major problem being faced by the Baltis is the land ownership that has led to their identity crisis. Giving vent to the woes of the people she writes,” Since the last 39 years, Ghulam Mohammed has been trying to get the revenue papers made of his land and home in Turtuk. But all his efforts have been wasted. He is among the 5000 Baltis of this region who do not have any land records. There are absolutely no revenue records here unlike the other parts of the state.( pp 74-77).
|Turtuk, a small place nestling at the farthest end of Nubra valley in Ladakh has a unique history. It was part of Baltistan, had remained with Pakistan for a long time and then was reunited with India. Balti is the prominent tribe of this area.|
Explaining this issue, Dr Suri writes, “As Turtuk was part of Chorbat block of Skardu district of Baltistan from 1948 to 1971. All the land records and related papers were kept in the office of tehsil headquarters of Skardu only and were being maintained by the Pakistan administration. But when the Line of Control (LoC) was redrawn after Operation Turtuk, the land records were left in Skardu due to which the villagers became landless landowners of their own lands.
Presently, though hundreds of acres of land are being cultivated or owned by the Baltis in the villages of Turtuk, Tyakshi, Chalunka, thanag and Bogdang but people of here have been termed landless legally.” (pp 74-77) Author has documented the pioneering role played by the Indian army in terms of Operation Sadbhawana leading to social transformation and capacity building besides bringing about infrastructural development.
Interestingly, ‘Turtuk Unveiled by’ Dr Kavita Suri is a must read for researchers, policy makers as well as the social scientists. Despite the fact that the book is costly, it should be revised to suit the common reader. Publisher should take care of the typographical mistakes that have remained in the book.
-Mahesh Kaul (The reviewer is pursuing PhD from SHTM, Faculty of Business Studies, University of Jammu & Editor, Enquirer Today)