This case study was undertaken by Kalpavriksh along with local partner organisations Snow Leopard Conservancy – India Trust (SLC-IT), Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (LAMO), Local Futures and Ladakh Buddhist Association. It was part of the project ‘Alternative Practice and Visions in India: Documentation, Networking and Advocacy’, and financially supported by Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBF), India Centre. A part of this study was also supported by Centre for Pastoralism.
Indigenous and other local communities across India have had traditional systems of local governance as unwritten or sometimes written codes of conduct and decision making. Many such systems are still being followed in parallel with the panchayat systems, or getting re-invented by combining the modern forms of governance with the traditional ones, especially in the case of communities still practising traditional occupations and ways of life (forest-based, pastoral, fishing, and/or farming). There are, however, very few studies of these systems interacting with modern state institutions, their current or continuing relevance, and their role in achieving goals of justice, well-being, and ecological sustainability.
The study: why and what
This study focuses on documenting the present status of the traditional governance system of Ladakhi villages, with a focus on the goba (or lambardar/nambardar), and understanding the current relevance of the system in the context of socio-cultural, economic, ecological and political transformations taking place in the region. For this, the study also looked at the interface between the local/traditional and new/modern governance systems, viz. the goba with the panchayat, Ladakh Hill Council and UT Administration.
The study was carried out in four parts of Leh district: the Sham region, the Gya- Rumtse area, Leh town and surrounds, and Changthang. Changthang region was especially chosen as an ecologically, culturally unique landscape (due to its predominantly nomadic pastoral nature) within Ladakh, where local governance has its unique features. We highlight key learnings from the above, for governance, democracy and autonomy specifically in Ladakh. Crucially, we ask: if the goba system continues to have relevance, what can be done to sustain it, clarify its role and strengthen its functioning?
This study is a collaborative effort between Kalpavriksh and local partner organisations Snow Leopard Conservancy – India Trust (SLC-IT), Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (LAMO), and Local Futures. Over the course of two years, the authors conducted semi-structured one-to-one or group interviews or open conversations with gobas (current and former), membars (a specific role assisting the goba), sarpanches, panches, councillors, bureaucrats of relevant departments and senior officials of the UT Administration, researchers, academics, and activists, head of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, and the Lt. Governor of Ladakh.
Read the full report here.
Read the Goba Report Summary in Bodhi
The following press releases were sent out during the course of the case study: