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REGIONAL ENTITIES, ETHNIC COMPOSITION & INTERESTS AS UNIFYING FORCES IN GOJAL HUNZA AM00000090000005630 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in gojal, Gojal Pakistan.
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By Fabeg Musofir (M. Phil) Researcher/Consultant

This paper aims at floating and stimulating ideas on “interests and identities” that become instrumental as unifying/binding forces to push up and achieve the interests and get identities at different levels. What are the issues, if there is no regional or sub-regoinal identity as binding-force in a diverse community at smaller scales such as the clusteral villages from Passu to Shishkat? An attept has been made, therefore, to contribute to the clusteral (or sub-regioal) entities of Gojal Hunza in an academic perspective.

Interests and identities are two interdependent features around which peoples in any society and culture always encircle or revolve and bind themselves in one way or the other. Along with pursuance of their interests at different levels, peoples also endeavor to have their identity in the same way. Human interests and identities vary in nature and scope. They could be at individual level or group level, or at the communal level within a village or valley, within a region or county or beyond. Types of interests entailed with identities have no limited boundary: they may range from socioeconomic to cultural realms, from sciences & technologies to religions & spiritualism, from politics to the ethno-linguistics and regional domains.

Interests and identities bring up both blessings (positive change) and curses (negative change) at individual level to the group, at communal level to the regional—depending on the intent, nature and intensity. After acquiring the interests and identities, people at any level (micro or macro) in any field (e.g., socioeconomic or poltico-cultural) feel a considerable satisfaction, an honor, take a pride and an ownership for such endeavors and accomplishments to whatsoever extent they may be. Such arguments also hold true to the interests and identities of the peoples of Gojal Hunza.

Gojal in Hunza valley, an international borders’ tehsil (magistracy), has a very strategic geographical entity and ethnic diversity. The naturally strategic (geographical) setting of the region, on the one hand, contributes to both opportunity of interests and opportunity of identities at various scales (including local, national & international). On the other, internally, the diverse cultural settings also leads towards opportunity of interests, identities and sometimes risks and threats as well.

The geographical area of Gojal, scattered on more than 10,000 sq km out of 11,500 sq km of entire Hunza, is comprised on mainly five valleys. These valleys have got their respective names (identity) such as Shimshal, Avgarch, Khunzhrav, Misgar and Chipursan that bind the peoples of more than 22 clans, almost 30 sub-clans and three linguistic groups of Gojal together with their individual and communal interests.

Shimshal (natively termed as Shingshal, consisting on a cluster of five villages) and Avgarch (a cluster of 12 villages) have some similar nature of phenomenon besides their common geographical border. In an average 14 generations before, the peoples of these two areas have common ancestral relationships within their own valleys whose apical ancestors have come from two opposite directions. Apical ancestor of the Shingshal people (known as Mamusing, behind whom the valley is associated as Singshal or settlement of Sing), has reached in the valley from Chaprot valley (in Nagar).

Conversely, the apical ancestor of majority of Avgarch people (known as Bobo Sufi and presently having three sub-clans after him) has come from Ghoron within Shughnon district in Afghan Badakhshan. Besides, there are also small number of ethnic groups who have come from Wakhan and Central Hunza. The latter is the phenomenon of almost one hundred year. Therefore, one of the binding or unifying forces for these peoples around their interests, to a significant level, is their kinship relationships whereby the communal cause/interest in the valleys are addressed and met in addition with the peoples’ strong feeling of pride and ownership of their respective valleys/clusters.

In Avgarch valley (cluster villages from Khyber to Sost & Khudabad), there are two main linguistic groups, the Wakhi and the Burushaski speakers, dwell side by side with each other sometimes embracing and sometimes differing linguistic pluralism. So at the linguistic level, their languages are the unifying force for the respective speakers. This holds also true to both these linguistic groups in other valleys of Gojal. (It is noteworthy that when we talk of a valley, it is imperative to have mountains on both sides, as we talked about Avgarch valley).

Misgar valley, gateways to China & Afghanistan through its passes within the sub-valleys, is a generous host to a unilingual (Burushaski) but tetra-clan community who have emigrated from Baltit (Central Hunza) more than a century before. Here all are purely Burushaski speaking people as we find in Shimshal valley that all are purely Wakhi speakers. Though, in the ethnical context, Misgar is a diverse valley, as cited above that four clan groups are here. While in the natural setting, Misgar has an extensive territory like Shimshal.  Besides their individual or clan differences in contrast with their lingual and faith similarities (being Shia Ismailis except for few households having Sunni faith), the people are unified around their valley (regional) interests and prideful identity as Misgari whenever there comes any issue/challenge.

Chipursan valley (like Misgar, Khunzhrav and Shimshal) is a strategic valley that borders Pamir-e-khurd (Little Pamir) of Afghanistan through Irshod Pass. Chipursan may rightly be called as the saint valley that has got colorful stories behind the Saint Bobo Ghundi nearly in all villages. Two language-speakers (Wakhi & Burushaski) and more than 20 clan groups are found in this valley. Majority of the people of this valley have out-migrated from the villages of lower Gojal (Gulmit to Passu, although, there is also presence of a small number of emigrants from Baltit (Central Hunza) and Wakhan (Afghanistan). One thing, which is notable in Chipursan valley, especially in the Wakhi speaking villages, is that generally the people do not refer each other with their clan names (although internally it exists and plays its significant role), but rather the people refer themselves with their originally emigrated villages as Gulmitik (dweller of Gulmit: suffiix –ik for dwellier), Paswik, Sissunik, Ghulkinik, and Wux̌ik.

Besides their personal, lingual, clan or village differences but under the chain of their faith, the people of Chipursan gather around their regional/valley level interests and needs. In this regard, we can find many concrete examples such as construction of the road infrastructures of Chipursan. This we can also see in the context of Shimshal and Misgar valleys.

Khunzhrav valley itself hasn’t got any permanent settlement of the natives. Rather the communities of Avgarch valley and Ghulkin reside here on seasonal-basis who graze their livestock on the pasturelands. The famous Khunzhrav National Park (KNP) is also in this valley and for the protection of this park there are the security forces who reside here through out the year. It was this valley on which the Khunzhrav Villagers Organization (KVO) of Avgarch valley had sued against the government in the court regarding its ownership and the demands of the community were met.

In a very sharp contrast to the identified valleys and peoples, there is neither any common regional entity for this cluster of settled villages (6 main and 15 sub-villages) from Pass to Shishkat as we see in the context of Misgar, Chipursan, Avgarch and Shimshal, nor does this part of Gojal have a common ancestral identity (like Shimshal & majority of Avgach people) to more than 20 clan and almost 30 sub-clan groups who dwell in addition with three languages (Wakhi, Burushaski and Domaki) of these ethnicities. Domaki, unfortunately, has become a more endangered language rather moving towards extinction. Preservation and promotion of this language is a must, indeed.

The apical ancestors of all these clan groups (from Shishkat to Passu) have emigrated from different geographical regions such as Central Hunza, Nagar, Baltistan, Wakhan and Darwoz (Afghanistan), Sarikol (China), Almaty (Kazakhstan) and even Darel (Diamar district). Such diversity of ethnicities brings both opportunity (if perceived positively) and threat (if perceived negatively) from the diverse worldviews. So, in the real world in the context of the respective communities, one can imagine objectively that to what extent, this diversity of ethnicities and languages could be positively perceived as strengths and utilized these strengths (worldviews & positive disagreements of opinions etc) for the societal development? Litigations on pasturelands through out the region/valley among different villages evidence acceptance or refusal of the diverse ethnicities & languages. So holds true to this lower part of Gojal as well. Being a sensible and unbiased reader and observer, how would one reflect on this point? I am leaving further analysis and resolves on you.

This lower geographical part, being a majority population of Gojal, has got more disagreements among peoples at intra-village and inter-villages levels. Reasons are absence of any regional identity as a unifying force, prevalence of ethnic chauvinism (as are also found among the peoples of other valleys) in addition with historically political and lingual factors, besides lack of land resources, which is more applicable on Shishkat.

In absence of any regional (cluster level) identity, there comes up wide gaps among the people of the cluster villages. Therefore, it is imperative to fill the wide gaps and push the community towards their development interests.

The Shia Ismail Council has its presence in this part of Gojal since 1969. This is a neutral and faith-driven platform and is a good source as binding-force. But because of the diverse ethnic identities, people sometimes raise questions about it as well. Questions could not be with regard to the Ismaili council’s neutrality witin itself, but rather about the objectivity of peoples serving on voluntary capacity therein. Second, because, this esteemed organization has an appendix of Gulmit that doesnot represent other villages in toponymical term. On the other hand, there are internally embeded ethnical (clan) and lingual factors besides externally imposed pseudo-political factors such as PML & PPP or MQM, altough, such factors also resemble with other valleys/regions.

Keeping in view the aforementioned rationales, it seems pertinent to have a common regional entity—getting out of the ethnical, lingual & faith affinity—to the peoples of this area of jurisdiction under the specified councils, Ismaili council or union Council (UC) so that there should be collective participation, pride, ownership and honor for that identity. It is not a big deal to have a common or communal identity at the cluster/union council level. Only, a name needs to be given. Names need to be proposed and through consensus, one name shall be selected as are for Avarch (name brought by Bobo Sufi from Wakhan), Shingshal (actual behind Mamusing as Singshal) or other valleys. For proposing the name, it is necessary to work out for some set criteria or standards. For example, the name should be locally-driven, acceptable to the majority of people, attractive and easily pronounceable, meaningful and representative to the area or otherwise.

Having these discussions in length, there finally rise a question: could there be a name that gives the cluster of these villages (from Passu to Shishkat) a common identity and pride as we can see in the context of other clusters of villages in other parts of Gojal or entire Hunza? Answer requires for this question; and the respective cluster area needs to think about and come to a solution. This question has been tickling me, time and again. About this question, whenever, I got leisure time, I pondered over and even asked some respondents in this regard.

Exercises were made to look for the names through different methods. Names of the respective villages, pasturelands, glaciers, peaks and geographical characteristics were resolved, abbreviated and coined together so that to come up with appropriate word (name), if possible.

Consequently, different names came up. One of the names, seemed fitting and striking, was “Pomiri”, a pastureland in Burundu Bar sub-valley in Shishkat INazimabad). The high grasslands with variety of flowers on the mountains is called “Pomiri” in Wakhi and “Pameri” in Burushaski. Such Pomiris are found on the pasturelands of different villages including Gul Butur of Passu and Hussaini as well as Ghulkin. Pomiri, therefore, could be acceptable to the respective villages.

Keeping in view the climatic conditions & geographical characteristics, some other names also emerged in result of the toponymical exercises. Some of them are being mentioned hereunder:

Although, the area from  Passu to Shishkat is orphan in having the clusteral identity (name) but conversely is rich in diversity of ethnicities and more particularly with regard to a naturally special characteristic: that is, the region is a generous and sincere host to seven glaciers including the world’s famous Butur glacier (the word corrupted as Butura, unfortunately), Passu glacier, Ghulkin-Hussaini glacier, Gulmit glacier, Shutubar glacier, Burundubar glacier and Baltbar glacier that contribute enormously to the Hunza River. It was, therefore, attempted to search out for the names depicting the glacial characteristics also. Consequently, names derived were Yazkhun (house of glaciers), Yazabod/Yazabad (settlements of glaciers) and Yazboy (rich in glaciers).

The area from Shishkat to Passu has another significant characteristic in climatic domain. The seven glaciers, as cited above, contribute to an intensified wind, especially during the winter, and

becomes like Bod-e Wakhon (Wind of Wakhan). Therefore, some names emerged from this characteristic such as “Dumabar in Wakhi stands for “the wind house” and in with the combination of the Wakhi & Burshaski language that means as a hybrid term for the “Wind Valley”. Another name was also extracted is “Dumaboy”, means “rich in wind” in Wakhi.

After resolving, abbreviating & coining up the sub-valleys/ravines (i.e., Butur, Zhrav, Baltbar, Brundubar & Shutuebar) in the cluster villages (Passu to Shishkat),  another word (name) emerged was “Buzbar”—goat’s valley: “buz” in Farsi for goat and “bar” in Burushaski for ravine/valley. Historically, of course, Gojal including this part has been the Buzbar, the buzes (goats) with sheep, paid as taxes to the rulers (Mirs) of the former Hunza State. While combination of the same word “Buzbar” as a combination of Farsi and Wakhi gives the meaning of “goat’s house/place. This holds true as the people of the area who still practice pastoral activities along with agriculture. In abbreviation, Buzbar is combination of “Bu” for Butur; “Z” for Zhrav, and bar for Baltbar, Brundubar & Shutubar.

It is hoped that the readers, especially the educated youth & leaders, of the area from Passu to Shishkat would deliberate meticulously and come up with a meaningful, attractive and representative name so that to unite the communities under a geographical entity that gives them a genuine and positive pride, honor and ownership. A representative and consensus-based name for this clusteral identity within Huna-Gojal region, not necesseraily proposed above, will also help in appropritely naming the newly Local Support Organization (LSO) promoted by the  Aga Khan Rural Support Programe (AKRSP). Coming to the end, what would you think or suggest in this regard?

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