"Seven and half decades ago we got our own country - India. In no time we became a part of Pakistan, and its exactly 50 years now, India invaded our villages and now we are in India. Mohmmad Asif told me. Asif is a local Balti guy.
I was somewhere up in the mountains in a village called Tyakshi. Located in the Shyok Valley, Tykshi and more known village of Turtuk are geographically in Baltistan. Although the approach road for us is from Nubra valley.
Kids at Tyakshi village.
"Where do you like Pakistan or Hindusthan?" I asked Asif.
"We are here with Hindusthan now. What choice we have anyway?" Mohmad Asif replied.
I was not too sure of his alliance.
Asif pointed towards a group of oldies sitting nearby chatting and drinking tea, "You know, Some of them have served in Paksitan Army."
My assurance of the local's alliance became even more doubtful.
Tyakshi, Turtuk and 4-5 other smaller villages were occupied by Pakistan till the 1971 war - The war that created Bangladesh. In 1971 Indian Army rescued some villages were from Pakistani occupation.
" In 197. like there was a war going on in Bengal, we also had a war going on here in Ladakh. The war ended in mid-December of 1971." Stenzing told me in a general discussion about Turtuk and Tyakshi. Stenzing is from a small village in Chumathang valley. Famous Tso Moriri is quite near to his village. He now works as a tour operator in Leh. He is educated in Delhi. Many Ladakhis do the same.
"Had the war gone any longer, it could have changed the entire demography of Ladakh permanently." Stenzing continued. He feels giving authentic information to visitors is an important part of being in tourism industry.
"Just a few kilometers ahead of Turtuk, there is a much bigger town of Skardu." Had we won Skardu back, because of its size, complete equation would have changed in Ladakh!." [To put things In perspective, Skardu has a population around 3,00,000. the population of Kargil is around 1.6 lakhs and that of Leh it is 2.5 lakhs.] [2020 approximate Numbers]
The local population of Turtuk and Tyakshi etc, is Baltistani. This is the only region in India where you can see Balti people. They look quite different than Ladakhi clan.
"Few years ago Indian government opened the villages of Tkyashi and Turtuk for tourism." Asif told me. "Since then we get lots of visitors. It helps us financially too."
"That must be only for a few months, Wont it? I asked him. [ Due to harsh winter]
"Yes. still, it adds to our income. It helps." Asif admitted.
"You can't tell anything about these people" Stanzin exclaimed. "They will take all advantaged from Indian government, but you never know whether they will support Pakistan or India in case of a war." Stanzin clearly was not a great fan of the Balti population.
"When Kargil war started Indian Army arrested many Balti people from these villages as the army suspected their alliance to Pakistan"
Stanzin took a mini pause, and then added "Like our Ladakhi people helped our army in Kargil war." After all we are Ladakhee. He said with a tone a pride in his voice.
"Some of our families got separated due to this episode." Asif told me. "Some people got stuck Pakistan and now can't come back to their village."
War is tough thing on individuals.
As of today, there is proper electricity, mobile network and roads and several health centres in these villages. The army doesn't let tourists go beyond Turtuk, but the locals can travel across. Army has kept a close watch and control over all the villages now.
Asif showed me around the village' took me to the other end of the village, and then showed me what part of mountains is still occupied by Pakistan. One section of the Takshi village is below at the river level. Although Ladakh is a desert, lots of farming has been happening there lately. Apricot and Apples are quite commonly grown there. Asif showed me a building that was a school when Tyakshi was occupied by Pakistan. Now Indian government has built much bigger building for the school.
As of today after 50 years of the short 1971 war, here in Tyakshi and Turtuk the life goes on.
But, let me tell you a specialty of this region not many people may know. And that is, that you might find the authentic Shilajit here. Not easy to find the pure, but you can. According to Aurved, Shilajit has many medicinal properties .
Here are some pictures from Tyakshi and the region around.