Galway Valley - Ladakh
Galway Valley - Ladakh

SRINAGAR — The Galwan river valley, which is the epicenter of standoff between India and Chinese forces in the newly carved out Union Territory of Ladakh, has a unique connection with Kashmir Valley.

The geographical region is named after Ghulam Rasool Galwan whose ancestors ran away from Kashmir and settled in Ladakh. Galwan was the first person to explore the Valley in 1899 when he was part of an expedition team that was exploring the areas to the north of Chang Chenmo Valley.

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After working with English and American travellers in the region, he was appointed as Akasakal of Ladakh – the chief native assistant of the British Joint Commissioner, who under a commercial treaty between Great Britain and Maharaja of Kashmir, was an authority over the traders meeting at Leh to exchange goods coming in caravans from India, Tibet and Turkistan. He died in 1925.

In his autobiography book “Servants of Sahibs”, Ghulam Rasool Galwan traces his roots to Kashmir Valley.

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In the book written in broken English, Galwan states that his great grandfather “Kala Galwan (Black Robber)” was a clever robber. “He climbed high walls like a cat. He never lived in a house,” he writes.

Galwan says his great grandfather robbed rich and gave much money to poor and even Maharaja of Kashmir was afraid of him.

As per the book, Galwan says Maharaja hatched a conspiracy with one of trusted friends of his great grandfather to catch him. According to Rassaul, his great grandfather fell into the well dug by his friend in his house and was caught by sepoys of Maharaja.

Later, he says, Kala was hanged to death and many persons from his community ran away to different places, fearing the same fate at the hands of Maharaja. “My grandfather came to Baltistan. My grandfather’s name was Mahmut Galwan,” he writes in the book.

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Sir Francis Younghusband, a British Army officer and explorer, writes that Ghulam Rasool Galwan behaved as a gentleman in every situation. “He came of the very poorest. He started as a simple village lad. But in every situation, he behaved like a gentleman,” he writes.

In his book “Into the Untravelled Himalaya: Travels, Treks, and Climbs”, Harish Kapadia writes that Ghulam Rasool Galwan was among the pony-men taken on by Lord Dunmore to the Pamirs in 1890.

“He served a host of other explorers and travellers: Younghusband, Longstaff, Phelps, Church, Wellby and Littledale—particularly on the route along the Shyok,” he mentions.

In 1914, he states that Galwan was appointed as the caravan leader (a very prestigious post) of the big Italian scientific expedition of Filippo de Filippi, which explored the Rimo glacier systems and spent several months in the area.

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