In the midst of India China border dispute a new Pasmanda figure has emerged out in a central position, the spotlighted Galwan valley is named after him. The story is as, once an explorer was entrapped in the Leh region and there seemed to be no way out, in this situation the fourteen year old boy helped the explorer out through a river. The explorer was amazed and influenced by the sense of bravery shown by the kid. He named the river after the child Rasul Galwan, and then the surrounding valley became famous as the Galwan valley. Since his childhood Rasul Galwan guided the search with famous explorers from England, Italy, Ireland and America.
The story of the boy of becoming a Chief Assistant of British Joint Commissioner from a pony boy of a Pasmanda tribal society is full of thrills.
His name was Rasul Galwan. He added Ghulam before his name on advice of a sufi saint. Galwan is a name of a family, which means the horse keepers. His ancestors used to take care of horses and ponies, so his family was named as Galwan. Walter Lawrence in his book titled “The Valley of Kashmir” on page number 311-312 has described Galwan as tribes. Phd scholar from Aligarh Muslim University, Warisul Anwar wrote on a Kashmiri news portal that, Rasul’s ancestors belonged to the famous tribe, the Galwan.
His great grandfather Kara Galwan was famous docait as he looted the rich and shared it with poors. Poor people considered him as a guardian and rich saw him as a constant threat. His grandfather Mahmood Galwan went to Baltistan from Kashmir and later went to Leh and settled there.
Rasul was born in Ladakh’s capital Leh around 1878. He was a person with multiple talents. He showed immense talent since his childhood, he used to paint beautifully on the walls, looking at which people used to tell his mother that one day he would be very successful. Since childhood he was of a creative mindset and he used to stay away from the sports of children of his age. He was interested in studies since his childhood. But there were no school in Leh at that time and the rich people used to hire private teachers for their children. He always insisted to his mother for study. Once his mother said to him, “We are poor people, I have no money to afford your teacher, reading and writing is the work of the rich people, not ours, secondly our fathers were not educated, They were hard working people, you should do the same, it will be good for you.
He told his mother, “Yes, our ancestors worked very hard for their livelihood, but I want to study.
Maybe if I’ve a good luck I would learn few good things which will be good for the future, I definitely want to study, if you think it is good, then let me go to the teacher. I’ve heard that despite being costly study is the best, and we can earn with it in future.
But his mother said “you will work in a tailor shop, it will be better for your future and it won’t be costly”.
(page 11 , servant of sahibs )
His mother sent him to a tailor but he wasn’t interested in it. He had been remain sad and always thought that if I was rich, I could have studied. The shopkeeper used to beat him a lot and within a month, he got fed up and fled from there.
At a very young age when he went on an exploration trip with Dr. Trall, his mother stitched three rupees in his kurta and asked him to use this money only when the money given by the sahibs spent out but first tell your sahib how much money you have and where is it kept. Otherwise, when sahib would be looted and he would see money with you, then he might consider you as a thief.
Before leaving for the journey, his mother hugged him and cried a lot and he cried too with her, at last he touched his mother’s feet and pay salam, and paid salam to his neighbours after that he went to his sister’s home and pay salam to her too.(page 25, Servant of Sahibs)
After some time a missionary priest opened school in Leh, Galwan’s passion for reading again started to oscillate but he knew his mother, so after getting a recommendation from his sister he enrolled in school, There he quickly moved forward, leaving the other boys behind due to this the priest became very happy, He deeply praised Galwan, which further strengthened Galwan’s faith in studies.
The process of exploration and study continued with the Sahibs. During the journey, which used to go on and on for a long time, Galwan kept repeating the thing which he had learnt, so that he could not forget what he had learnt.
Ladakhi, Turkish, Urdu, Kashmiri, Tibetan and English languages were known to him.
In a letter to his wife Catherine, the American traveler Robert Barrett writes, “Rasool’s manners are perfect, the most policed gentleman could do not more than equal them. He is a very good person, and a gaurdian to his men. He is a very black and very handsome man, graceful in all his movement, his smile most charming. His voice is the sweetest man’s voice I ever heard. The woman lives not who would not fall in love at first sight, but his standard of morality is very high. The Women are afraid of him as of a saint.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Younghusband, he had a strong faith in God. It was his stand-by in all hardship, trails and disappointmen. And this habit of reverence was undoubtedly what made him the gentleman he was. He came of the very poorest. He started as a simple villege lad. But in every situation he behaved like a gentleman. He was a born story-teller, clearly a popular singer and had, also, a great delight in banjo-playing.
Conflict with Chinese soldiers:
Pasmanda have been inhabiting this land for centuries, that is why they are having a natural attachment with this land and it is obvious that every one loves his country as his mother. This has been a big reason why Pasmanda have always been in the front line in sacrificing their life for India. Pasmanda have never seen that, in whose hands the power of the country is, their preference have always been their country, for whose protection they have been making sacrifices even in the lack of resources they have to face. And why not, they are not external invaders like Ashraaf muslims who consider India as a conquered state.
Once when he returned to the camp in the evening, he found that some Chinese soldiers had assaulted Major Sahab and the Head-Man. Rasul Galwan was very angry, he beat the chinese troops with his friends Kalam and Ramazan, later chinese came and apologized to Major Sahab. On the second day, Kalam suddenly came and told that the Chinese are killing our poeple in the market, Rasul Galwan reached there immediately, saw that the whole market is full of Chinese soldiers and they were killing the people, he immediately jumped into the fight, Chinese soldiers broke his stick and injured him badly. He fell to the ground, yet they kept hitting him and ran away thinking that he was dead.
After some time, Major Saheb came with the headman, he told Ghulam Rasul, who was lying in a half-dead situation, “Rasul you don’t have to be sad, here you have fallen alone and there seven Chinese soldiers and one of their military officers have fallen”. A triumphant smile streamed on his face. His friend Ramadan was also injured badly in this event. (page 76,77,78, Servant of Sahibs)
Regardless of the fact that the British themselves are foreigners and occupying India, Rasul thought it is more important that the morale of Chinese soldiers to be broken so that they could never look at our borders. And for this, he put himself and his companions’s lives in danger. A year after the publication of his autobiography, in 1925, at the age of 47, he passed away from this world.
Today, once again, Rasul Galwan is posthumously playing an important role in protecting the border of India. The discovery and naming of the valley by an Indian is further strengthening India’s claim.
Servant of Sahibs: A Book To Be Read Aloud, Ghulam Rasul Galwan, W. Heffer & Sons Ltd, Cambridge, 1924.
The Valley of Kashmir, Walter R. Lawrence, I.C.S., CLE., Oxford University Press, 1895
The Economic times
The Lallantop Youtube
Thanks to Ghulam Rasul Galwan Saheb, he presented his life story to us in the form of a book and contributed immensely in keeping a Pasmanda Legend immortal in history. The title of the book “Servant of Sahibs” itself explains the Pasmanda point of view. He did not hide his piety (being from the Pasmanda tribal society, the occupation of his forefathers which is considered bad at the time and even today) but rather like Baba Kabir made it public.
At the same time, I also thank Engineer Shamshad Ahmad Saheb, who introduced me to Galwan Saheb by sending me a photo on WhatsApp which inspired me to write.
This article is originally translated from Hindi to English.
Translator: Fazal, student of Marine Engineering, Indian Maritime University , Mumbai
Writer: Faiyaz Ahmed Fyzie
Writer, Translator, Social activist and Medical Doctor by profession