Heritage trails of Chitral-3

Today on my way to the Bazar of Chitral in public transport, saw one elderly man sitting with other younger passengers. One of them addressed the elderly man with some good words about the old days of Chitrali society and the condition of health of the older generation and the blessings they had enjoyed in the bygone days. The elderly man did not have the mood to discuss the old days  but I could not restrain myself in reply to the young man who was praising the old days. I countered his arguments and said many of the constraints and problems faced  by men of 50s and 60s who had very small amount of food or provisions in the market as we do now. They old had no health facilities, no education but the talkative young man was adamant that in spite of all that they were lucky. They got organic food even if it was small in quantity. They were very cooperative, sympathetic towards each other and had great altruism within their communes. They sacrificed their resources with the have-nots. They traveled long on foot or on ponies but  did great help with each other. Their respect for moral values was very high. And the man went on praising the men of old Chitral.

In retrospect I consider that despite their lack of food and clothing resources they were very hard working people.  True, they were poorer than the present day men of Chitral but had greater stamina to work hard and harder. They were self sufficient and got enough food stuff from their cultivated plots for a year. They travelled far and explored many passes in summers and carried certain items to other valleys, many articles of medicinal value including Chars which was not  banned then. It was allowed and the state of Chitral got some duty on this item and trade of Chars was legal.

There were also teams of smugglers in Chitral who bought Chars from the villagers and hired porters and took to little known tracks across the passes that led to borders of upper Swat via Bashqar gol and Golen valleys, first entering Reshun gol and then into Golen gol and after that great struggle, got good value for their commodity but it was only a summer time effort. In winters they collected more material from the villages. The legal trade brought less value than the smuggling. The cartel had its own rules.

The tracks leading to Badaxan via a number of passes in the west were used by state dissidents and others who were in the black book of the rulers of Chitral. These were mostly located in the Khuzara valley. The passes used by anti Mehtar elements were watched by men of the ruler and movements were reported to him. The internal trails from valley to valley were used in summer for local need such as visits or travels to cut long distances  and now these internal tracks have been discovered by Gujur herders who have reached the very distant meadows and set up their own network to use the old trails for different purposes. Some trails have been found very convenient for a number of trading deals among themselves bypassing the local communities. The old tracks, now estimated by researchers, are less known to the new generation of Chitralis but better known by the said herders and this aspect of the issue is much more dangerous for the coming generation if the herders are allowed to operate as they do now. .. Prof Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 13 Jan 2021

One thought on “Heritage trails of Chitral-3

  1. Very informative write-up for the present and future generations of our abode-Chitral.The Gujar herders are apparently simpletons to the common Chitrali villagers, as no one is much aware of their deeds in the high mountains and pastures. General villagers perception about Gujur is that they are poor and they survive on the contribution of villagers for their services to graze village herds but it is not the real case. They exploit each and every resource available in the village pasture lands, cut precious trees for timber and fuelwood purposes and sell them to different clients; collect unique medicinal and aromatic plants including precious morel mushrooms to be sold in bigger regional or national markets. They even do not spare the indigenous birds eggs in the mountains besides hunting chakors, ram chakors and other wildlife species besides collecting precious and semi-precious minerals/gemstones from the mountains. The village people should be aware of the activities/movement of their Gujars on a regular basis and control such illegal activities by them through timely reporting to concerned government deptt.

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