Explained: The Dard Aryans of Ladakh: who are this tribe, what are their concerns?

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Dard Aryan Tribe

Mains level: Issue of extinction of PVTGs in India


Context

  1. ‘Dard Aryan’ is not among the list of notified Schedule Tribes, clarified the Tribal Affairs Ministry.
  2. The Ministry has not formally received any charter of demands from the concerned State Government for seeking financial help for preservation of their cultural heritage.

Who are the Dard Aryans?

  1. Some 200 km from Leh are the villages of Dha, Hanu, Garkone and Darchik on both sides of the Indus River, inhabited by the Buddhist Dard Tribes.
  2. The villages are together called the “Aryan valley”.
  3. The community now numbers about 4,000.
  4. The word ‘Dard’ is derived from a Sanskrit word, ‘Daradas’, which means people who live on hillsides.
  5. People of this region are culturally and linguistically different from those in other parts of Ladakh.
  6. There is a line of thought that the “Aryans of Ladakh” or the “Brokpas” might have descended from soldiers in Alexander’s army who had come to the region over 2,000 years ago.

Tradition and Customs

  1. They rear goat and sheep for milk and meat, and their festivals are based on the solar calendar.
  2. Their traditions go back 5,000 years; those who still follow the original customs worship trees, rivers and mountains.
  3. These tribals are mainly dependent on agriculture; the apricots grown here are considered among the best in the world and there are 12 varieties of grapes in the region.
  4. Grape-wine is very popular in the “Aryan valley”.

What Concerns these Dard Aryans?

I. Urbanization

  1. The tribals perceive a threat to the heritage of the community owing to modernization, migration and religious conversion.
  2. Of late, the Dard men have been migrating to other parts of the region (in search of livelihood) and marrying outside the tribe.
  3. The tribe is struggling to find a balance between modernity and traditional values.

II. Losing Identity

  1. Over the last few decades, many of them have embraced Islam or Buddhism.
  2. The community prohibits marriage with outsiders to keep the gene pool intact.

III. Geographic limitations

  1. Also, after the Kargil War, development work in this region has been restricted.
  2. Some of the areas of the Aryan valley are out of bounds for outsiders, since it borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

IV. Lack of Education

  1. There are only three high schools in their villages and very limited resources for livelihood — mainly because of the harsh weather and difficult terrain.
  2. As such, they have no option but to migrate to cities for higher education and employment.

Addressing their Concerns

  1. They have demanded that the government set up a tribal hostel and declare the “Aryan valley” a heritage village to boost tourism.
  2. But the only way to sustain them is by giving them special status and helping make them self-sufficient so that they don’t have to migrate.
Tribal Development
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