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The Western Himalayan Beda Tribe and their Struggle for Existence

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By- Prof. Harish K Thakur, Chairman, Department of Political Science, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. He is currently researching on the Beda Tribe and this piece highlights some of his findings.

Tribal people have over the centuries undergone stages of unplanned development and have suffered a great deal from the changes made to their natural habitats. Even the planned efforts from within and outside have many a times changed the complexion of the tribe for all the wrong reasons, which have been done without proper insights on the specific tribal lifestyle and hence the desired results were not achieved. The government of India also has many a times introduced certain changes to protect the indigeneity of tribal life with the aim to help them integrate with the mainland, but the socio-economic problems of the tribes still evade solutions and require reconsideration and readjustments. As in this age of technology the sanctity of the tribal life has been seriously endangered. However, the ones who have so far survived are being marginalized and many are at the verge of extinction. Beda is one such tribe of Ladakh which has witnessed a drastic dilution over the recent decades and is struggling for existence.

 Origins and Composition

The origins of the Beda tribe of Ladakh are unclear, but they are considered as the first settlers of Ladakh. Also, many from within the tribe approve of their origins in Himachal Pradesh mainly from the Kaza area of the Lahaul Spiti District. Ethnically they reflect strong Mongoloid features with a broad flat face, wide nostrils, broad nose, and prominent cheeks. According to the latest Census Report of 2011 their number is said to be 420. They live primarily in Nubra and Indus valleys of Leh and speak languages of the Western Himalayish language family which includes languages spoken in neighboring Kargil District as well as Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur, Western Tibet and even Baltistan. Majority of these people were Buddhists but many in the recent decades have embraced Islam. The primary reason behind this shift was societal segregation as a many people from within the tribe believed that shifting into a newer identity would change their fortunes. As according to many members of the tribe the Ladakhi mainstream community have been quite ruthless and indifferent towards them. The Beda people are placed at the lowest rung among the Ladakhis, especially in Leh as the other people of the district do not participate in their funeral ceremonies and this forms the height of discrimination. However, the services of the Lamas (to the Buddhists) are always available on such occasions, but this poor social placing of the tribe seems to be one major reason behind the deliberate attempt to assimilate with the Muslim community. But even Muslim Beda’s are called by the name ‘Beda’ and face discrimination which does not completely make them discrimination free.

 Estrangement and Disenchantment

The people from this tribe used to earn through musical performances by playing upon lutes (Surna) and drums (Daman, Dhap) and by doing such kind of performances they would beg for grains, sattu or coins. Now a days, many of them have been earning their livelihood through other ways. The followers of the traditional Beda culture from within the tribe are significantly declining over the years, while the factors behind the decrease in numbers primarily seems to be social discrimination, poverty, unemployment, impact of globalization, non-ownership of land, technological advancement, increased literacy, and unacceptability among especially the Beda youth. But according to the field investigations the primary reason which has led to the dilution in the number of their population adopting their traditional culture, seems to be the trans-migration of the members from the Orthodox-Buddhist community in the Beda majority areas. These orthodox influencers according to the Beda’s question their cultural beliefs, and that invariably gives them an inferiority complex, many say that those people are too rigid and even after the consistent appeals by the Dalai Lama himself to those people things remain the same. In addition to that the general indifference towards the community is very high and their non-acceptance on egalitarian basis at different social, economic, political, and cultural levels has led to the Beda estrangement from the larger order and disenchantment from the whole system.

Effects of Globalization

It is not a hidden fact that globalization annihilates localism and cultures of closed societies and at the same time also endanger the very existence of tribes and remotely inhabited autonomous cultural groups which have sustained themselves through centuries through their close relationship with the geography and environment of the area. This globalization and the resultant consumerism, marketing, increased tourism and most importantly the development drives on account of projects, infrastructural facilities, defense build up and exploitation of natural resources have endangered the Beda identity over the years. With the availability of the latest means of entertainment, musical instruments, and performers the significance of the Beda performers has gone down especially in the areas of origin. In the investigations it was found that many members of the tribe were disinterested in their traditional occupation since it did not fetch them much monetarily and thus wanted to migrate.

Many of them also have been doing kuligiri (labor work) with construction companies or the Indian army that helps them earn more. Lack of government jobs on a permanent basis is another area of complaint for Beda’s and they regard unemployment as one of the major reasons behind the decline of their traditional role and culture. On the other hand, the same has also led to most of the youth being engaged in formally educating themselves. The Beda’s have understood the significance of education in this era of globalization and hence, are sending their children to school. But with that being said, again massive discrimination has been reported against them in schools, specifically concerning non-deliverance of scholarships to their children. Thus, even in this era of globalization, social discrimination is rampant at this needs to be dealt strictly, so that the confidence of the community could be restored back in the system.

The Way Forward

Inclusion of marginalized people especially of an area that carries a strategic importance becomes more significant on account of national development and security and thus to safeguard the cultural heritage of the Beda’s a lot needs to be done. Thus, in this concern, it is strongly recommended that at least one member of every Beda household (the total number of posts required may not exceed 100) should be ensured in a governmental or semi-governmental job. Similarly, jobs regarding Beda music and practices could be reserved in the departments of Youth and Services, Cultural Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, Drama Division, Radio Stations, Public Relations etc. Also, more Beda’s should be encouraged to get their wards registered in schools, but this can only be achieved by effectively utilizing different scholarship schemes, provision of free uniforms and mid-day meals to children. Education should be made free for them till the matric level to remove the financial burden on this poor tribe. Also, the youth of the Beda tribe should be encouraged to especially get technical education so that their career safety could be ensured. Different long and short-term career-oriented courses (diplomas and certificates) should also be introduced according to the actual requirements of the UT. They should also be made aware of different tribal welfare programs and schemes through school and college education.

Thus, the government should do whatever is in their arsenal to halt the final obliteration of the Beda people and help the tribe in their struggle for survival.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Himachal Watcher or its members.

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Corona Curfew in Himachal Pradesh From May 7, Public Transport to Remain Operational, Educational Institutes Closed Till May 31

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curfew in Himachal pradesh from may 7

Shimla-A corona curfew in Himachal Pradesh would be imposed from May 7, the State Government decided today in a meeting of HP Cabinet held today.

The state government said that in order to break the virus chain, the Cabinet decided to impose Corona curfew in the whole State.

“All the government and private offices/ establishments would remain closed from 7 May, 2021 to midnight of 16 May, 2021. It was also decided that all essential services such as health, electricity, telecommunication, water supply, sanitation etc. would remain open,” the government said.

The Cabinet decided that work would continue at civil work sites, horticultural/agricultural and other project sites. Educational institutions in the State would remain closed till 31 May, 2021. All government and private transport would ply at 50 percent of occupancy and inter-state transport would continue. Industrial establishments would work as per the guidelines issued by the State Government.

The government said that detailed SOPs would be issued by today evening. 

Also Read: Situation Grim in Himachal With Record 48 Deaths in a Day, Senior Leader Shanta Kumar Advises Govt to Impose Lockdown

Keeping in view the sharp surge of covid-19 cases in the State, it was also decided in the meeting that the annual examination of 10th standard of Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education would stand cancelled. All the students would be promoted to 11th class by the Board as per the norms suggested by CBSE for its students for the 10th standard examination. It was also decided that 12th standard examination of Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education and annual examination of colleges would also remain suspended till further orders. 

For the department of Excise and Taxation that handles work related to collection of the revenue, which form major part of revenue earned by the State and to properly administer and regulate, the various tax laws in the State, the Cabinet gave its nod to create a specialized and dedicated separate service in the State ‘H.P. Revenue (State Taxes and Excise) Services in place of existing posts of the officers in the department.

The Cabinet gave its approval to upgrade regional hospital Una as 300 bedded regional hospital along-with creation of 76 posts of different categories to ensure better health care facilities hospital to the people of the area.

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Situation Grim in Himachal With Record 48 Deaths in a Day, Senior Leader Shanta Kumar Advises Govt to Impose Lockdown

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covid-19 testing rate in himachal pradesh

Shimla- While the state government remains indecisive over imposing more restrictive measures to check the COVID-19 spread, the state lost 48 more lives – the highest in a day so far. On Tuesday, with the increase in sampling to 15954 from 8511 on Monday, the number of daily cases also jumped to 3824 in the state. According to the official statistics of the state health department, Kangra districts reported the highest 877 cases and 16 fatalities. Solan district reported 11 fatalities and 411 new infections.  Mandi district reported  807 cases and one fatality. (Scroll down to view all details of deceased)

View the District-wise Details of all COVID-19 Cases for May 4, 2021 (Till 7 pm) Below:

daily cases

Source: HP NHM

Pertinent to mention that Himachal Watcher had been raising questions over a very low sampling in the state when the fatality rate has reached an alarming level. The sampling was decreased from 14649 on April 29 to 8511 on May 3 while the fatality rate rose continuously. Also, the state government didn’t provide any clarification over this decreasing number of sampling. But health experts believe that sampling needs to be boosted further to assess the true scale of the spread.

Also Read:  Testing Increases in Govt’s Statements Only

Speaking on the worsening situation in the state, especially Kangra district, former Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar has advised the state government to impose a lockdown.

Meanwhile, some reports of mismanagement and unpreparedness of the COVID are hospitals are appearing on various media platforms, especially on social media. A citizen in Shimla yesterday complained that the Ayurvedic Hospital, Chotta Shimla, did not admit his mother who needed immediate oxygen support.

A 53-year-old woman in Ramshahar, Solan district, died as she failed to receive ventilator support. According to a report in a daily, the patient was referred to the government hospital in Katha where ventilators were available but weren’t operational. Chief Medical Officer said that there is a shortage of staff, regarding which higher officials had been informed, the report said.

Claims of contact tracing also proved to be empty as a report appeared which said a bus conductor (HRTC) was on duty when he received information that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Questions are being raised as to how the conductor was allowed to carry on with his duty in a bus and why he wasn’t isolated after his sample was taken.

View the District-wise Details of all COVID-19 Deaths for May 4, 2021 (Till 7 pm) Below:

Daily COVID-19 deaths in Himachal PRadesh on May 4, 2021

Source: HP NHM

Daily COVID-19 deaths

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