A Place Called Chushul
Chushul is a Village close to the Indian LAC with China in the Eastern Ladakh region close to Pangong Lake as well as Rezang La. At an altitude of around 4360 m it used to be the main Village of the Changthang block in the Ladakh region earlier. And it is one of the five designated locations along the LAC where the Border personnel from both countries meet to have formal meetings in order to maintain peace at the LAC.
We passed this place on our way from Pangong Lake to Tso Moriri which I must rate as one of the finest drive one can do in the Trans Himalayas cutting across the Changthang. Once we got to Chushul we realised that one of our Vehicles was short on fuel. And since Chushul was one of the main Villages on the way and uncertain of whether we will get fuel anywhere ahead we decided to look for Petrol in Chushul. We had already crossed Chushul when we decided to turn back and when we came back into the Village we passed by the Police Post . And there was an old Policeman sitting outside. We asked him where we could get Fuel. He told us and then suddenly he asked us for our Inner Line Permits.
All of us in 4 Vehicles were Residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and as such we dont require Inner Line Permits. J and K residents just need to show IDs to prove their credentials and they are good to go. And plus we had a letter from JK Tourism which pretty much gave us an open Pass as far as the ITBP/ Army guys were OK with it. The Policeman just saw the Letter and checked the IDs of the guys in the first Car and told us to go. Since I am no longer a permanent resident of JK being based in Gurugram I was carrying my old Passport photocopy which had been issued in Srinagar. But I had still got an ILP made for myself just in case. But it didnt come to that and the Policeman was satisfied that we were all JK residents and let us go.
And then we got the fuel had Lunch and we were on our way again. We again passed the Police Post and this time there was another younger Policeman there who signalled us to stop. We stopped and told him that we had already shown our papers. He looked at all of us. And then suddenly I realised that he was staring at me. The Policeman then said “ Iska permit Kidhar hai” pointing at me. He again said “Yeh foreigner ka Permit kahaan hai ?”. Out of all the Kashmiri guys he somehow assumed me to be a Foreigner. I was slightly amused and started smiling. I blurted “Sirji main Foreigner nahin hoon. Srinagar se aaya hoon” He started laughing and bade us n our way.
Now to more important stuff. Historically this was the place where the Treaty of Chushul was signed in 1842 which officially demarcated the border between Ladakh and Tibet as a consequence of which Ladakh became a part of the Sikh Kingdom of the Punjab. After the death of General Zorawar Singh in Tibet his Army had been routed. The Tibeto-Chinese Army then marched towards Leh and almost captured it. Except for a small Dogra detachment that was entrenched in the Fort. The Dogra Detachment held on till the time fresh troops arrived under Diwan Hari Chand and Wazir Ratnu. The Dogras drove out the Tibeto-Chinese and started chasing them and the Tibeto-Chinese forces dug in at Drangtse.
In a brilliant tactical move the Dogras flooded the Tibetan fortifications by diverting a local River and they were again forced to flee Eastwards. The Dogras were again on their heels as avenging the death of their beloved General Zorawar Singh was their most motivational factor. The opposing Forces finally met on the open fields at Chushul in August 1842 and in the engagement the Tibeto-Chinese force was defeated and their General was decapitated in a form of brutal medieval revenge. With their General avenged they could now go back as both sides had by now now lost the appetite for further engagements.
Both sides then decided to have a treaty by the way of which their territories would be demarcated and recognised by each other. And the Tibetans and the Chinese gave up any claim whatsoever that they had over Ladakh. So on 16/ 17th September 1842 was signed the Treaty of Chushul at Chushul and it said
"As on this auspicious day, the 3nd of Assuj, samvat 1899 (16th/17th September 1842) we, the officers of the Lhasa (Governrnent), Kalon of Sokan and Bakshi Shajpuh, commander of the forces, and two officers on behalf of the most resplendent Sri Khalsa ji Sahib, the asylum of the world, King Sher Singh ji, and Sri Maharaja Sahib Raja-i-Rajagan Raja Sahib Bahadur Raja Gulab Singh, i.e.. the Muktar-ud-Daula Diwan Hari Chand and the asylum of vizirs, Vizir Ratnun. in a meeting called together for the promotion of peace and unity, and by professions and vows of friendship, unity and sincerity of heart and by taking oaths like those of Kunjak Sahib, have arranged and agreed that relations of peace, friendship and unity between Sri Khalsaji and Sri Maharaja Sahib Bahadur Raja Gulab Singh ji, and the Emperor of China and the Lama Guru of Lhasa will hence forward remain firmly established forever; and we declare in the presence of the Kunjak Sahib that on no account whatsoever will there be any deviation, difference of departure (from this agreement). We shall neither at present nor in the future have anything to do or interfere at all with the boundaries of Ladakh and its surroundings as fixed from ancient times and will allow the annual export of wool, shawls and tea by way of Ladakh according to the old established customs.
Should any of the Opponents of Sri Sarkar Khalsa ji and Sri Raja Sahib Bahadur at any time enter our territories, we shall not pay any heed to his words or allow him to remain in our country. We shall offer no hindrance to traders of Ladakh who visit our territories. We shall not even to the extent of a hair's breadth act in contravention of the terms that we have agreed to above regarding firm friendship, unity, the fixed boundaries of Ladakh and the keeping open of the route for wool, shawls and tea. We call Kunjak Sahib, Kairi, Lassi, Zhon Mahan, and Khushal Chon as witnesses to this treaty."
And to this day the territories as designated in this Treaty as held as the Official border as recognised by the Indian Government though the Chinese from time to time play some hanky panky as has become their norm in this Sector. But of course that doesnt take away from the significance of the Treaty or from the importance of Chushul itself.
A visit to Chushul would always be worth it if you love the Mountains and love some History as well.
Pic from August 2018. Chushul, Eastern Ladakh.