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Shogoon Muhammad











30 June 2000


The interview begins with Shogoon Muhammad describing his family background. He goes on to relate the history of Shimshal in great detail. As well as the story of Mamu Singh and his sons, he also tells of the arrival of religion, the rule of the Mirs (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974) and the relationship with the Chinese. The translator provides extensive notes which both refute and expand Shogoon Muhammad’s version of events.

As a senior community member, Shogoon Muhammad is nostalgic about the past and expresses his concern for the future and what fate the new road may bring: “our life is becoming very easy” he argues, describing how people’s lifestyles have already altered. In particular, he points out changes in dress, marriage practices and an overall increase in both consumption and individualism. In the past, he says, “One family would take three or four families’ livestock and go to the meadows and pastures. They would take care of their livestock, make products not only for themselves but also for the others.”

Shogoon Muhammad regrets he did not have the chance to be educated: “The only regret in my life is that I could not get an education, to know and understand the world… I don’t understand any other language to talk to strangers and other people. You understand many languages… You talk to different people and enjoy this. When I see other people (foreigners) but I can’t talk to them, I just stare at them. What to say?”

Shogoon Muhammad’s views on the road are both hopeful and fearful. Comparing a road trip with the treacherous and difficult journeys on foot of the past, there is a sense of relief. Yet like other narrators he is concerned about the threat to the peace of the village once it is more accessible.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Family background: “Like me, [my father] was also a farmer…He spent all his life in this trade. My father used to do the same work which his forefathers had done and I have to continue it.” His education: “I couldn’t get a chance to go outside the village and get an education or learn any skill because my parents were alone. They needed my help to work in the fields.”
Section 2-4  Detailed account of Shimshal’s history. Shogoon Muhammad explains “there has been no written history but all we have heard from our forefathers is that Harcha Mamu Singh was the first man who came to this village…”
Section 4  Origins of land distribution: “The land was actually distributed among the sons of Sher’s sons - Boqi, Bakhti, Wali, and Hawaz - who subsequently redistributed their lands among their heirs, which continued on till today”. Raiders of Avgarchi in Shimshal: “…they were from Kashghar, the capital city of Xinjiang or Sinkiang, an autonomous region of China. They used to raid these border areas and loot the people of their livestock and other belongings.” Other settlements and claiming of lands.
Section 5  The earlier settlers – before Mamu Singh: and “We can guess there were a large number of people here, that’s why they had excavated such a long channel… There may have been many more people than our current population.” Origins of Jamat khana (religious community centre of Ismaili Muslims) and of religious practices. The languages of prayers.
Section 6-7  The story of Sho-i-Shams: “It is due to the kindness and prayers of Shams that we have settled in such a safe and vast place”. The Miri regime of governance: “They were bestowed with the power to rule not by man but by Imam (the Aga Khan).” Positive changes affecting the community’s livelihood: the construction of the Karakoram Highway. Praise for his forefathers: “They helped each other and made sacrifices for the village, especially the well-off people like you would make roads, bridges and other development works for the community. They discovered new routes to explore their areas, valleys…”
Section 7  Relationship with China: “It is being narrated that before the 1940s and 50s, the Chinese authorities would come from Sriqol to Pamir and herded everything, including the people, back to their area and made them prisoners.” Changes in crop cultivation: “The new additions in our crops are vegetables and potatoes.” Past dependence on agriculture and cattle. Yak numbers have increased along with the human population. Changes in income: “although the people have more opportunities and sources of income and are earning a lot, there are no savings. We are spending more on our clothes and food. If people restrain from lavish spending and confine themselves within the limits of their income, then I am sure that people like you would become millionaires within three or four years...”
Section 8-9  Earlier regime: “In those days, the Mir would give orders to the arbob (Mir’s main representative in the village) who would call a meeting of the villagers and discuss issues relating to village development and we would work together.” Construction of roads: “These were constructed on the directives of pirs (saints)…” His experience of nomus (donation towards community project in the name of a relative). Clothes and footwear made and used in the past. Generational changes: “Now people have become independent of these labours (making clothes) and life has become very easy. Most of the young people have not gone through these hardships. I have been through these things most of my life.” Marriage – practices and ceremonies of the past; his arranged marriage.
Section 10  Concerns with the future: “If the road opens, all kinds of people will come here… that will create a problem for the villagers. We are in isolation now but in the future… We don’t know how to cooperate and deal with foreigners.” His visits to Gilgit and Hunza: “When I went to Gilgit the first time it was a different world.”
Section 11  Previous transportation problems: “some 40 or 50 years back, when we travelled to and from Passu, we would cross the freezing river 30 times - even in weather below minus 10c. When we would enter the river, the ice would cut our legs and when we reached the other side of the river, we put on our sandals (long shoes made of animal skin) and put our trousers round our necks and walked in the freezing weather until we reached home.” Disagreement within the community about AKRSP supporting the road construction but not paying the villagers. Some people wanted the government to take over.