Galwan valley named after man of Kashmiri descent who explored it in 1889

Ground Report | Srinagar

The Galwan river valley, which is the epicenter of standoff between India and Chinese forces in the newly carved out Union Territory of Ladakh, has a unique connection with Kashmir Valley.

The geographical region is named after Ghulam Rasool Galwan whose ancestors ran away from Kashmir and settled in Ladakh. Galwan was the first person to explore the Valley in 1899 when he was part of an expedition team that was exploring the areas to the north of the Chang Chenmo Valley KNO reported.

After working with English and American travellers in the region, he was appointed as Akasakal of Ladakh- the chief native assistant of the British Joint Commissioner, who under a commercial treaty between Great Britian and Maharaja of Kashmir, was an authority over the traders meeting at Leh to exchange goods coming in caravans from India, Tibet and Turkistan. He died in 1925.

In his autobiography book “Servants of Sahibs”, Ghulam Rasool Galwan traces his roots to Kashmir Valley.

In the book written in broken English, Galwan states that his great grandfather “Kala Galwan (Black Robber)” was a clever robber. “He climbed high walls like a cat. He never lived in a house,” he writes.

Galwan says his great grandfather robbed rich and gave much money to poor and even Maharaja of Kashmir was afraid of him.

As per the book, Galwan says Maharaja hatched a conspiracy with one of trusted friends of his great grandfather to catch him. According to Rassaul, his great grandfather fell into the well dug by his friend in his house and was caught by sepoys of Maharaja.

Later, he says, Kala was hanged to death and many persons from his community ran away to different places, fearing the same fate at hands of Maharaja. “My grandfather came to Baltistan. My grandfather’s name was Mahmut Galwan,” he writes in the book.

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Sir Francis Younghusband, a British Army officer and explorer, writes that Ghulam Rasool Galwan behaved as a gentleman in every situation.

“He came of the very poorest. He started as a simple village lad. But in every situation he behaved like a gentleman,”

In his book—“Into the Untravelled Himalaya: Travels, Treks, and Climbs” Harish Kapadia writes that Ghulam Rasool Galwan was among the pony-men taken on by Lord Dunmore to the Pamirs in 1890. “He served a host of other explorers and travellers: Younghusband, Longstaff, Phelps , Church , Wellby and Littledale—particularly on the route along the Shyok,” he mentions.

In 1914, he states that Galwan was appointed as the caravan leader (a very prestigious post) of the big Italian scientific expedition of Filippo de Filippi, which explored the Rimo glacier systems and spent several months in the area.

The Galwan valley was a flashpoint in the 1962 war. According to a report, China has changed its claims over the valley thrice. It started with a small territory. Now, Beijing says that the entire Galwan valley belongs to China which the Global Times editorial also repeats.

China has reportedly positioned 5,000 PLA troops along the LAC. Many of them are said to be in Indian territory. In the Galwan valley, the PLA is said to have erected around 100 tents in the last two weeks. In fact, an open source intelligence expert has captured some satellite images of the Ngari Gunsa airport, 200 kilometers away from the Pangong lake in Ladakh – the site of the skirmish between the Indian and Chinese forces earlier this month.

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There are Chinese fighter jets now positioned on what looks like a runway. India is stepping up its own presence at the border. On Wednesday, Indian Army chief MM Naravane will meet his top commanders as part of the two-day Army commanders conference in which the situation at the border is expected to come up.

So this is where things stand right now, a large number of Chinese troops positioned at the border at multiple locations with assertive and aggressive commentary from China. Beijing seems to be fine with this unprecedented level of tension at the border and it is making territorial claims at a time when the world is trying to control the virus, that came from China.

China caused the biggest pandemic in a century and is now indulging in military adventurism. India has taken a stand without trying to exacerbate the situation pushing back the Chinese at the border and backing a global investigation into the outbreak.

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  • Wahid Bhat

    Wahid Bhat is an environmental journalist with a passion for covering climate change and environmental issues. He holds a degree in English Journalism (EJ) from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication and has received Media Fellow for NFI India (National Foundation for India) and Thomson Reuters Foundation. Wahid's reporting has been published in a range of respected outlets including Earth Journalism, Global Village Space, The Quint, Youth Ki Awaaz, and Devdiscourse

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