Is Kargil a place where nobody lives except the soldiers? The author bursts many such misconceptions
Whenever someone talks about Kargil, many of us think that Kargil is a mountain range in the state of Jammu and Kashmir where nobody lives except the soldiers. But, it’s not true. I too had a lot of misconceptions about Kargil, but when I visited that place, I found it simply beautiful. Few days back, I went to Kargil for attending National Youth Volunteers Meet with other participants. We all had some misconceptions about Kargil like it is very cold throughout the year, it is terror-affected area or we have to live in a tent etc. But, when we reached Kargil, we found something different. The temperature was about 23 degree Celsius (i.e. neither hot nor cold), People in Kargil were very supportive and truly nationalistic, and there were no anti-India feelings in Kargil. I was amazed to see that some of the people in Kargil know Hindi and English, so we did not face any problem of communication. We saw pucca houses, shops, schools, colleges, hotels, town hall and even one All India Radio station in Kargil. When I reached Kargil I tried to find out more about Kargil from the local people and administration.
Kargil is a district of Ladakh division in Jammu and Kashmir. It lies near the LoC facing the Pakistan occupied Kashmir region of Gilgit–Baltistan to the north, the Kashmir and Jammu divisions to the west, and the Leh district of the Ladakh division to the east. Zanskar is part of Kargil district along with Suru, Wakha and Dras valleys. It is the least populous district of the 22 districts in Jammu and Kashmir. Majority of the population is those of Shia Muslims and rest of the population is of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. The most important thing about Kargil is the social fabric of the place, people of different communities living together peacefully. In Kargil Bazar, you can see a Gurudwara and a Mosque sharing a single wall. People are very friendly to soldiers and if they find anything disturbing in the area, they directly report to the Indian forces. During the war of Kargil, the local population helped the Indian army in the difficult terrain.
Geographically, the Kargil valley is very beautiful and totally covered by mountains. The population has historical links with Gilgit, Baltistan, Iran and other parts of Asia. It is the land of several tribes with different languages and dialects like Balti, Laddakhi, Dardi etc. Because of the ancient influence of Buddhism, the whole population is peaceful and nature loving. Water sources in Kargil are directly coming out from glaciers are thus very pure, and they all do organic farming to grow crops and fruits.
The route and the terrain of Kargil via Kashmir are very beautiful and equally risky. The mountains are very beautiful and one can find several waterfalls and snow mountains during the journey. A lot of people, traveling to Ladakh via Kargil by motorbikes, can be found on the roads of mountains. The scenic beauty of the place is not less than Switzerland or Europe. One can also find more than 100 feet trench along the road; it is very risky and equally adventurous. You can find Indian soldiers, who are helping people in service of their motherland after every kilometre. When you see them standing in these tough situations and helping people, only one feeling rises into your mind, that is respect.
I also talked to a few people of Kargil- one of them was an electrician named Mohammad Taqi who had earlier worked with Indian army as a driver for several years. He told me that Indian army officers had trained him in the electrical works, so now he earns his bread and butter after retiring from the army. He is very thankful to the officers of Indian army from whom he had learnt this skill. This is how the army is helping people in making them self-sustainable.
I also met Hakeemah Ali, a girl who had just got an admission for graduation. She was also a social worker. Since her childhood, she had been providing coaching to small children of Kargil. Not only this, she is also a radio jockey in All India Radio through which she promotes the schemes of Indian Government in local language for the local people so that youth and common people of Kargil may get information regarding the new government schemes. She wants to change the perception of people about Kargil. She is a proud Indian and wants to become a big social worker in her life.
We also visited Darchiks village of Kargil. Some people call it an Aryan village because of the migrants from different regions. Although, this Aryan concept is not related to Aryan invasion hypothesis and seems to be a myth, yet people living in this village resemble Gilgit, Baltistan, Iran and South Asian races. We have attended their cultural programme in the government school of the village. We also met the villagers and children over there. They are very friendly and so innocent.
Kargil War Memorial
There are lot of more things that one can explore like Kargil war memorial built on the way to Kargil. It is a big war memorial where you can find the true story of Kargil war and all equipments used in the war. One can see Tiger hills and all strategic locations from that place.
Interesting Pieces of Information
- Unlike Kashmir, the population of Kargil is patriotic and nationalistic. Shia Muslims, Buddhists and other religions support the Indian army at that place.
- Some people told us that in ancient India, this place was part of famous silk route. People from different countries would stay there for taking rest because it is completely covered by mountains, then they would go to their respective countries. Some people believe that Kargil is a strategic place for China and they want it for One Belt One Road and it could be the reason behind Pakistan attacking India in 1999. It’s just a speculation but worth sharing.
- Kargil can be developed as a very good tourist destination because of its beauty and the acceptability of population.
- In Jammu and Kashmir state, Jammu, Kargil, Zanskar, Leh, Ladakh are very peaceful and patriotic, unlike Kashmir region. The government should provide them with the same facilities in these areas as Kashmir is being provided.
(The writer is a researcher at PPRC, New Delhi)