The Khampas of Khimling were rendered homeless after administration declared the village non-habitat in 1981 and by default the village vested in government. The Khampas, who once formed second line on Indo-Tibet border, have been struggling over 50 years for social cultural and economic existence. Though government made arrangement for their survival and some of them were allotted shops at Nainital, Haldwani and Almora. The Khampas also proved their skills of trade and were doing well. They have made their presence felt in mainstream trading but the mental and physical loss suffered due to total displacement from native village, post Sino-India war, is yet to be compensated.
The 1962 Sino-India war and thereafter the end of Indo-Tibetan trade saw an exodus of Khampas from the last and 15th village of Darma valley in a state of sheer distress as there was no economic activity left in the village. The Khmling village, situated at a height of 14000 feet, was solely dependent on trade. The Khampas were couriers of Bhotias having Tibettan horses, mules, yaks and sheep herds which were used to transport goods to Tibetan market collected by Bhotia community of the Darma, Johar and Byan valleys in interior Himalayas. The villagers of the rest of the valley could sustain due to cultivation of various high altitude crops.
Followers of Buddhism, the Khampas, even faced an identity crisis as the people of other villages branded them Tibetans, being the only Buddhist village in the valley. Fortunately, Minority Commission recognised them as Indians after the villagers produced land records of Indian revenue village.
Apart from identity crisis, these people faced another technical problem to claim rights over village that was declared non- habitat village. The government schemes like construction of roads, providing electricity and opportunities of jobs under MNREGA and other welfare schemes were based on the population of each village and accordingly people were benefited.
But in this case, the village that remained uninhabited since 1981 can't access these welfare schemes. There were no permanent structures and people partially lived there in tents in the past. The development of villages and deriving benefit from government run welfare schemes depended only if people reside in villages on record. Their name enrolled in population register provides them benefits. This is a big problem that needs to be resolved by relaxing norms at the high level.
In the absence of road connectivity which is left behind 90 kms away at Dar and electricity far away, the situation is bound to be unchanged. The zeal and enthusiasm of Khampas for their native land may bring back prosperity to village but again they needed government backing. These brave hearts have built a Gompa and installed an idol of Lord Buddha in the village in 1990 without any external support. Almost every family tries to visit the village once in a year.
Plight of other villages in the valley, too, was not in line with the tall claims of development made by the politicians. At the grass root level, things differ extremely as is claimed. It seems the residents of far flung villages in Uttarakhand have been left with no choice but to migrate to other place in search of jobs for survival. The face of problem may be different. The political and bureaucratic apathy displayed in this case only reflects the sad state of affairs that may be prevailing in the distant interiors across the state and probably the main cause of ghost villages's syndrome.
Today over 100 Khampa families are spread over Nainital, Almora, Haldwani, Shimla, Dehradun etc. They were, indeed, on the path of progress but the nostalgia of ancestral village haunt them. Not only elderly but young generation also wished to revive, rehabilitate and revamp the deserted barren village which can't even produce potato owing to high altitude and extreme weather conditions. But government initiative will encourage them.
The scope, however, was in cultivating herbs provided government extends full support for collection, transportation and marketing. Several precious Himalayan herbs are naturally grown around the abandoned village in plenty but the need was to collect and market the produce but without active participation of government, it was a nearly impossible. The first and foremost requirement was to set up basic infrastructure; the roads, electricity and transportation and,of course, financial support.
This is the existing ground reality of the Khampas of last Indian villages on Indo-Tibet border. The braves who once formed second defence line are fighting to make claim on their own village. Unfortunately, we not only deserted the habited village but also ignored the security of the nation on our side while on the other side Chinese were developing huge infrastructure and setting up all required facilities. The government must come forward to check migration by relaxing norms and providing out of the box solution. It will help Khampas and also the nation?