Turtuk: The Village That Became Indian Overnight in the 1971 War

Residents of Turtuk remember their memories from the night of 15 December 1971.

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In December 1971, as a full-fledged war raged on between India and Pakistan on the eastern front, a handful of villages in the northern part of the subcontinent changed hands overnight. Turtuk, situated 200 kms from Leh and just 10 kms from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, is one of them.

This is Turtuk’s story: of separation, tribulation and sometimes, a reluctant reconciliation.

This film was shot during a visit to Ladakh in June 2017, facilitated by the Farside Collective. During a week-long stay in Turtuk, known in the region as the 'last village of India' owing to its proximity to the Indo-Pak border, I met and shot with residents of the village while they recounted their memories of the night of 15 December 1971, when India won their village over from Pakistan.

Overnight, the villages of Turtuk, Tyakshi, Chalunka and Thang were taken over by Indian forces and the people who went to bed Pakistani citizens awoke to find themselves newly Indian. Turtuk, with its population of just 4,000 people, is a community living peacefully and trying to make sense of the swelling number of visitors its been seeing since 2010, when it was opened up to tourists.

The film attempts to examine what it means to belong to a land that changes allegiance overnight and eventually call it home.

(Ansh Ranvir Vohra is a non-fiction filmmaker currently based in New York. He’s worked extensively on arts, culture, education and personal histories. In 2016, he co-founded The Pind Collective, a collaborative Indo-Pak art project that facilitates dialogue, exchange and collaboration between young artists from India and Pakistan. He can be found on Instagram @shutterchicken)

(We Indians have much to talk about these days. But what would you tell India if you had the chance? Pick up the phone and write or record your Letter To India. Don’t be silent, tell her how you feel. Mail us your letter at lettertoindia@thequint.com. We’ll make sure India gets your message.)

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