Bring the Kalash to Ladakh!

This was something that was suggested on Twitter (or emerged out of a discussion on Twitter): why can’t the Kalash have the option of relocating to Ladakh? It’s not that different of an ecosystem, and there would be less cultural pressure to change and/or threat of assimilation.

The Indian government imposes a no-contact policy for the Sentinelese for the sake of their cultural and biological integrity (they would probably die of disease). I’m not proposing this for the Kalash, but at least bringing them to Ladakh would prevent the imminent threat of assimilation, though the individual appeal of Delhi would still be there.

There’s a lot of anger from Hindu nationalists online. Often toward Muslims. I get the reasons. But this is something that is constructive and positive. The Kalash are not a fossil race. But they preserve something that is unique and soon to be lost to the world.

37 thoughts on “Bring the Kalash to Ladakh!”

  1. Don’t underestimate attachment to ancestral land. They will be foreign refugees in ladakh.

  2. I think these posts on Kalash are erroneously painting a picture of Kalash as a victimized community. This is 21st century. I am sure a substantial number of Kalash carry smartphones and use Internet. Some of them are probably reading this blog 🙂

    Ultimately it is up to them to preserve their culture. If they are not interested, nobody can save it. No amount of relocation will help.

    As I stated in a previous comment, it is simply peer pressure. As long as they think that the surrounding culture is a superior culture, they will assimilate. Indian Americans kids lose Hindu culture in America, Bangladeshi Americans kids turn atheists in america. Kalash lose their religion in Muslim majority country. Simple.

    1. Its been amusing to watch this topic unfold in the comments.

      No indication that forced conversions are occurring at any significant rate, yet the simple act of people converting to Islam in South-Asia draws cries of “forced-conversion” and “religious persecution”. This hysteria is seen in India as well (usually in relation to Hindu girls converting for marriage to Muslim men).

      I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps because Hinduism is a faith that while resilient, rarely attracts converts, so the very idea of religious switching is heavily stigmatized as its an otherwise losing endeavor for Hindus (and win for Muslims).

      1. Also I’m going to have to call bullshit on your claim about the comments sections. I Ctrl+F’d through the comment threads and aside from the website hosts, there was literally one dude (Karan) who commented on forced conversion, but that was in the context of a counterfactual Kashmir scenario where it accedes to Pakistan, not the Kalash in particular (who aren’t even in Kashmir).

        I honestly think you’re just looking to pick fights with people.

  3. “why can’t the Kalash have the option of relocating to Ladakh?”

    You underestimate how legally difficult it is for Pakistani, or Bangladeshi religious minorities who are being persecuted to obtain citizenship in India.

    BJP government failed to pass a citizenship amendment bill to make the process easier:

    1. “BJP government failed to pass a citizenship amendment bill to make the process easier”

      The BJP has covered its bases ,it has allowed the N-Indian states (its core base)to allow for granting of citizenship. The bill was stalled due to whole Assam-Bangladesh issue, so BJP did what it does best, “activate” the bill without even pushing the bill. 😛

  4. i wholly agree with this proposal. Bring some 20000 Kalash to India would not cause any upheaval. Main problem would come from Pakistani government and it’s Jhadis. Jihadis because they are losing their prey ; Pak govt because it gives them bad international press.

  5. For what it is worth, the relocations and migrations that have caused great distress in history have involved hundreds of thousands or millions of people. With the Kalash, we are talking 20,000 people plus or minus, or less. The demographic impact on the destination wouldn’t be all that much different than the impact of migration to an area from the opening of a new factory or a new mine for minerals or opening a new university or a new hospital complex or an army base.

    Also negative responses to refugees are usually driven by fear of the refugees and by fear that they will transform the local’s culture and undermine their power.

    But, in this case, the small absolute numbers and the fact that the locals would know that after the first wave that there will be no significant follow on migration, would help make it much less frightening.

    So would the fact that, unlike the usual refugees these migrants would not arrive penniless and utterly dependent upon the charity of the locals for survival, the Kalash would be in more or less the same material state as they were when they left their homeland and more or less self-sufficient.

    So would the fact that as a more or less isolated community they wouldn’t be competing strongly with the locals for jobs or spouses or government offices.

    As an analogy there were waves of Amish migration in American history resulting in the establishment for various Amish settlements in the U.S., has produced communities that have never had very intense conflict with their neighbors or been the source of major strife, although there have been tensions just as there are any time two unlike communities are neighbors (e.g. the classic town-gown conflicts in college towns).

    They are a thorn in the side of Pakistan because it identifies itself as a specifically Islamic state and there is a lot of baggage in Islamic doctrine about heathens which the Kalish clearly are (they can’t, for example, be considered People of the Book). But, in religiously pluralistic India, this is not an issue.

  6. So bring over the Kalash, so the Islamic Republic of Pakistan can continue to get rid of its minority populations? What % of West Pakistan was non-Islamic in 1947 and what what is this % now?

    Why isn’t somebody suggesting that Pakistan be sanctioned for committing cultural genocide on the Kalash? Why are there no boycotts of Pakistan? Why is there no trade embargo?

    Where are the so called liberals of Pakistan who should be agitating for human rights of the Kalash and other minorities?

    1. This is absurd West Pakistan’s non Muslim population should be dated from 1948 post the Punjab exchange. But yes the cleansing of Sindh’s Hindu elite was unforgivable

      1. Perhaps 1948 would be more accurate than 1947.

        However, why speak only about the “the cleansing of Sindh’s Hindu elite”?? The persecution and conversion of non-Muslims continues to this day, be it in Sindh or Punjab. There are regular articles in the likes of The Dawn and other newspapers, but nothing changes.

        To make matters worse, the blasphemy law continues to be used/misused – depending on your perspective wrt religious minorities in Pakistan.

        My point remains. What is the so-called liberal elites doing in Pakistan? Why are there no sanctions of any kind?

    2. You are probably aware that this invitation to so-called liberals is naive. We already concluded that the term liberal in this context is an oxymoron. How can be liberals those who don’t want to denounce the taqiyya or jihad or kill infidels? The movement’s doctrine simply cannot imagine coexisting with anyone else unless they consist only couple percent of the population. You can see here that some half-brainers would not move their Richard one millimeter for such cause.

  7. I support this 100%, it’s a great and timely idea. I do worry however if the Kalash will survive outside what can only be called their sacred geography, being a pagan people I suspect they have a deep attachment to their land, rivers, springs, waterfalls and trees. But I understand that some of them at least historically migrated from Afghanistan to escape Islamic conquest, so this would only be another tragic but necessary displacement for their people.

  8. I dont expect the Kalash to be under too much pressure from what I have seen online. It seems to me there is a growing appreciation in Pakistan of it’s pre-Islamic past and History. Kalash allow the Pakistani state to present a more diverse, interesting and unique image of itself to the world, and the West specifically. Recently, there have been more and more Western Youtubers doing vlogs about travelling in Pakistan. The Northern Areas are a big part of that and it seems this image creation is important the the country as there has been a decent amount of state coordination with the content creators.

    It can be only a matter of time before more Pakistanis start taking an interest in their Indo European past.

    1. If your assertion about ‘growing appreciation’ is correct it means that half-brainers we see here are totally retards.

    2. Yes I agree –
      I don’t think however Pakistanis will be interested in their Indo-European past.

      I think it’s a holistic approach and a step by step approach. Pakistan should have a more pluralistic identity at any rate.

      What I found interesting is that even among the pagan Kalash; their names are already so Muslim (Iqbal Shah)..

      I would also not be surprised that Islam is seen as a step towards more “calmer living” less promiscuity and alcoholism.

      Don’t get my wrong Islam is still a shit religion but I think it’s a bit more shaded.

      Pakistan should have the decency of giving the Valley some autonomy and banning conversion and mosque building altogether. Any Muslim Kalash should migrate to the cities, which I suspect they will start doing..

      Additionally the Muslim Kalash are suffering from the “Parsi problem” in that their women are in high demand.

      Women from high ANI groups in South Asia marry aspiration/upwardly mobile men from lower ANI groups.

      I think in India what would happen to the Kalash is the progressive Hindufication of their beliefs; Diwali, Holi and other such holidays would crowd out their rituals. This isn’t to say India is an order of magnitude more liberal than Islam but this is also a commentary on the attendant effects of liberalisation, capitalism and modernisation; it’s very difficult on the exotic minorities of yore (Islamic fundamentalism is yet another, greater, weight on them)

  9. By the way, there are already dards in Ladakh, about 3-4000 of them in Dah-Hanu. They are called Drok-pa — drok/drog < Skt darada; -pa = Ladakhi/Tibetan suffix denoting people/tribe. They are all Buddhist.


    If the Kalasha emigrate to Ladakh, they almost certainly will be treated as a Scheduled Tribe and given job reservations and the suchlike under that constitutional status (as Gujar-Bakarwals, gaDDis etc of J&K and Himachal are).

    Also unlike what some (Indians) think, Kalash animists are not Hindus. The smoking gun for Hinduism of a community is the existence of Brahmins. So even today’s practising Brahmins will consider the Kalash mleccha-s (as the thousand year old Brahmins did) due to the lack of the elite sub-culture of Vedic canon retention.

    (Just adds more weight to my long-standing position that elite Hinduism, i.e. Brahminism, is a more in-land Dravidian/IVC influenced priesthood than completely IE)

    1. I know Kalash aren’t Hindus. The mystery is that why aren’t they. If Kashmir valley Indo Aryans progressed naturally towards puranic Hinduism, why didn’t Kalash. After all they were in cultural contact with Kashmir, as proven by Rajtarangini. Yet they have a complete lack of usual markers of Hinduism like castes, gotras, pantheon of puranic gods and such.

      Also, Razib’s post indicates that Kalash possess significant Iranian Farmer component in their genome (largest component as he said). To me that is indicative of Harappan ancestry. All the more reason to have some non-Indo Aryan cultural traits.

      1. On Kalash being non-Hindu:

        While the rAjataraGgiNI does mention close contact of the darada-s with the court of Kashmir, their run-ins with the royal family and frequent involvement in all kinds of political intrigue to the point that the Kashmirian army invaded and put down revolts by them – it never mentions any vaidika-s or brAhmaNa-s of darada country. This is unlike gandhAra (N Punjab/Upper Indus riparian) or Aryadesha (E Punjab/Haryana) or even far away vaGga (Bengal) or madhyadesha (SW UP/Rajasthan), countries whose brAhmaNa-s are mentioned and wherefrom they did visit (and even settled) in Kashmir.

        Sanskritic names of darada kings like vidhyAdhara, maNidhara, yashodhara, jaggadAla, acalamaGgala etc are attested, which indicates them being nominally part of the Sanskrit cosmopolis. Famously acalamaGgala aided by other Turks and Islamized darada-s of chitral and yasin, tried to invade Kashmir (in the second half of 11c), but the invasion was routed and acalamaGgala beheaded by the shahIya prince rudrapAla — son of trilocanapAla, the last shahIya dynast of gandhAra. trilocanapAla’s family had sought refuge in the Kashmirian court during King ananta’s reign after gandhAra had fallen to Ghaznavi.

        The easy relations of darada polities with Muslim Turks and lack of investment in the Sanskrit cosmopolis (no brAhmaNa immigrants) means that they were always beyond the Hindu pale.

    2. “Also unlike what some (Indians) think, Kalash animists are not Hindus. The smoking gun for Hinduism of a community is the existence of Brahmins.”
      – While veda-s and the conservative brAhmaNa class are at the _core_ of hinduism, Slappo’s definition of Hinduism itself is too narrow here since:

      – It underplays the absorptive prowess of hinduism (fractally accommodating animist tribes into its superstructure – take the case of Zeme Heraka of Nagaland ) .

      – It underplays the history before when these people totally lost contact with hindu elite of surrounding areas of Afghanistan and TSP due to Islamic conquest.

      “So even today’s practising Brahmins will consider the Kalash mleccha-s (as the thousand year old Brahmins did) due to the lack of the elite sub-culture of Vedic canon retention.”

      And this then is a half truth and misleading due to lack of context.
      – One should not take Slappy’s claim of being able to correctly represent the views of “practicing Brahmins” for granted. The major portion of “practicing Brahmins” will treat them as they treat other Hindustani tribes like Santals, Bhils or Chenchus (who do have deities not commonly worshiped among the vedic hindus under the same name and mythemes). Further, “practicing Brahmins” are not so stupid as to be unaware of their historical connection with gandhAra area.
      – Also, it should be self evident that even if they were considered “mlecCha-s” as Yezidi-s would mostly be (despite Guru Ravi Shankar and co aiding them ), they would obviously grade them as *friendly* mlecCha-s in contrast to muslims.

    3. We all know that Kalash are not Hindus ; they will add ethnic diversity to India ; especially those fleeing the jihadist butchery in the neighboring countries should be given a place in India .

    4. Slapstik,

      One of the hotspots of dravidian linguistic diversity is in the upland border region around the intersection of TN, Kerala, and Karnataka. The irula, toda, badaga, and kodava ethnicities who inhabit a swathe of the area speak unique dravidian languages. One thing they mostly seem to have in common is that up until recently they have been outside the fold of brahmin mediated hinduism. Now , unsurprisingly, they are assimilating into the mainstream, some faster than others. I haven’t researched it much personally, but I wonder if something similar is the case with the other great cluster of dravidian linguistic diversity in east-central india inhabited by the gond, oraon, kurukh and other groups.
      Many dravidian pastoral groups like the kurubas accord themselves the highest ritual status in matters of worship as well. From the vindyhan range/ chota nagpur plateau and south, tribal communities seem disproportionately austro-asiatic and dravidian. Tribalness itself is a category conceived to describe communities outside brahmin-officiated purity stratification.
      Just a cluster of thoughts here that might encourage an alternative hypothesis to what essential dravidian characteristics may have been.

      1. Actually I was also thinking of the Todas. Todas speak a dravidian langauge ; their society is different and so their religion. Kalash can be Todas of the Himalayas

  10. How about some area around Lake Baikal? I have heard this area is beautiful. Let Russia allot.

    India is eventually going to screw up Ladakh. Indians (urban elites) tend to pick the worse trends from the West to copy. Instead of utilizing Ladakh for a hiking getaway from Delhi on a weekend, more are interested in riding up loud polluting motorcycles. With that will come the trash.

    1. Back to, most likely, their ancestral (tbc) land? Andronovo, Baical or whatever?It happened before. Some Serbian tribes after 1000 of years of fighting Chinese and Huns started moving back to their ancestral land. It lasted sometimes for hundred of years. In previous homelands and on the way back they left thousands of their toponyms. Some of them went to Siberia (it got name from Serbia), many of them settled on the way back in Iran, Anatolia and some even reached Serbia. They brought back songs and folklore from the land (e.g. around Amu Darya) where their ancestors lived more than 1000 years. Some of these songs were recorded and kept for hundreds of years in Serbian monasteries during the terrible period of brutal muslim occupation. Some time ago, songs were published, I have one copy and I will translate at least one for BP readers. Our own BP – MMK, is aware of this song collection and already confirmed this here. He is now facing a new challenging task (seconded by one curious reader) to find out and explain what was the previous name of the river Ind. Let’s fingers cross (or whatever is culturally appropriate) and give him our full support!

    2. During a brief visit to Ladakh a few years ago, I did see a number of heavy-duty motorcycles (many of them looked like Harleys, but I’m no expert on bikes.) The bikers themselves seemed to be a very international crowd though, and hardly Indian-dominated. There were stretches of countryside, in open valleys, where I would often see a bunch of exclusively white guys in bikes.

      So if Ladakh is to get screwed by polluting bikes, don’t blame just Indians for it.

      1. True. We also get the lowest in the totem pole among Western civilization taking interest in Indian things. Indian yuppies gulp mouth wide from them.

        The day you see German scientists making a beeline to work for ISRO is the day you know India’s made it. For now we deal with the herbalists and eat pray love ists.

  11. Good idea – we welcomed Parsis and Tibetan Buddhists after all. But privileging them over other pagans (esp Hindus) minorities of Islamic states does not make much sense for Hindus. They should need to ply their trades and *buy* fertile land rather than expecting the Indian government to hand it to them on a platter. That would still be a good deal for the Kalash – just as it was for Tibetans.

    But it is not practical for several reasons – . Of course – no harm dreaming.

  12. Mostly it won’t work. In India refugee/immigrant population have moved into the same community which share their ethnicity/religion. The Bangladesh war and Tamil wars are perfect examples. Had there been no Tamil Nadu or West Bengal/Assam/Tripura where there are already large proportion of their own community living there there would be much more blow back to Bengali/Tamil immigrants. This is true of religion as well where you can find rohingya community in Kashmir/Hyderabad while Sindhi hindu community in Maharashtra etc.

    In India even inter state migration results in big flash points, leave alone a totally different community being placed in Ladakh where there is already simmering tension b/w Buddhist and muslim population. The only exception to all this rule is the Tibetan refugees in Himachal, but i cant think of any other instance.

    1. Perhaps Tibetans are now quite well-settled in HP, especially in and around Dharamshala, but they did face significant prejudice back in the day (though it may not have gone much beyond racial slurs. )This according to my mom who lived in HP during her childhood.

      1. Yeah, so that one exception is not an exception after all. but considering how subcontinent is, i think “prejudice” is something which one can still live with , considering the alternatives

  13. Why not Russia.

    Russia is inviting white South Africans.
    Russia wants immigrants, but not being coy or PC, white immigrants.

    The Kalash look very white/caucasian.

  14. The biggest stumbling block would be Land laws in certain states in India, where even actual Indian citizens can’t buy certain types of Land (esp habitable, agricultural or forest land) it would be hard for an outsider population.

    Though Tibetan refugees were settled in Himachal (also one of those states which non-resident of the state can’t buy land) legally they are not citizens and their stay is assumed to be temporary.

    Permanent settlement(non-refugee) in a J&K territory for Kalash or any non-J&K person let alone a mass population is nigh impossible just on legal terms. And changing this law is whole another kettle of fish.

    Kalash might get better odds in other states in Plains.

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