Local politics in the Suru valley of northern India
This thesis addresses the politics of the yokma-pa, a Shi'ite faction in the Suru valley in the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir state, in Northern India. I use the term factions as this is one of two Shi'ite religious groups in the area that between them contain the majority of the population, and are normally opposed to each other. Recently, the yokma-pa have apparently undergone a major political shift from the 1 960s, when they had a millenarian ideology and were primarily concerned with their own local religious agenda. In the 1990s, they have taken on the role of an interest group in the context of electoral politics and the local administration. Education is a major contemporary issue in the area, and through opening their own English medium private school in Suru, they are addressing the stereotype held by the administration and in popular discourse in the area that Shi'ahs in Suru are backward and irrational. The thesis demonstrates the continuity between these two phases. It also shows that the yokma-pa constitutes a legitimate political organisation, at the same time as being a religious organisation and a faction. This thesis makes an important contribution to the anthropology of Ladakh, since there is now a large amount of detailed ethnography on Buddhists, but very little on Muslims, who also remain relatively neglected in the ethnography of India more generally. It may also contribute to academic debates on political forms in India in the context of the current political crisis, especially the rise of Hindu communalism, since there is a dearth of contemporary studies of local politics.