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Reclaiming their Kashmir identity:
A story of Indo-Tibetans

Sep 22, 2006:

Very few people in Kashmir know that the community commonly perceived as Tibetans in Kashmir are originally of Kashmiri descent. Lacking the official state subject status Indo-Tibetans are living as semi-refugees in their own land since their return. Nighat Jabeen reports.

RIMOKOFT, Indo-Tibetans
Anaytullah Naik(centre), President, RIMOKOFT Welfare Committee along with other members at the committee' office in Srinagar.
"In Tibet we were called Kashmiris. In Kashmir we are called Tibetans," says an aged Indo-Tibetan at Eidgah as he talks about the history of the community living in Kashmir since 1960.

With broken Kashmiri, oriental facial features, unique culture, dress, and language Indo Tibetans are a community easily distinguished from the rest of Kashmiris. Their ancestors had gone to Tibet for trade purposes and settled there. As time passed by they formed their own identity distinct both from Kashmiris and Tibetans.

Indo-Tibetans returned to Kashmir in 1960, leaving a Tibet invaded by China. The migration was not smooth. India secured their migration from a reluctant Chinese government on the basis of Kashmir origin of these families.

Official communications between India and Chinese government reveal that India produced a list of 129 Muslim families of Kashmir origin, who were then repatriated from Tibet in 1960.

In Srinagar they are housed in colonies at Hawal and Eidgah. Today there are 236 families with a population of about 1100.

After 46 years of their return most of the people here are unaware of their Kashmir origin.

"Our history has left an impact on us," says Yaboob Bhat who explains that their stays in Tibet and exposure to two cultures have turned them into a unique community separate from both the cultures.

Here the community has not mixed much with time. They are Muslims but don't get politically identified with Kashmiris. Their mother tongue is Tibetan, and they speak Urdu and understand Kashmiri.

"Don't call us Tibetans," objects Hamid, an Indo-Tibetan resident at Hawal, whenever referred to as Tibetan.

The resentment on being regarded Tibetan is common among the community.

"We are not Refugees. We are Kashmiris," he says.

Though the community was repatriated, they were not granted the official domicile of Jammu and Kashmir, making them sort of semi-refugees in their own land. . .

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Kashmir Newz Specials
Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

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