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‘‘Tread slowly, tread slowly, or don’t tread at all, under your pen are a thou-
sand lives,’’ a religious scholar in Ladakh said to me, quoting a modiﬁcation
of a verse in which a Persian poet had once referred to the thousand lives that
lay under the feet of his beloved. Perhaps the number of lives affected by my
pen will never ﬁgure in the thousands; nevertheless, these words resonated
with me as I grappled with writing about the subject of conflict in a place
that I have come to love over the past fourteen years. My steps toward this
project faltered, retreated, and moved forward again, and the list of people
who helped me through it grew longer and longer.
Without the inspiration, hospitality, and wisdom of Sonam Phuntsog, I
may never have returned to this book. I am also deeply indebted to the vil-
lagers of Achinathang, most of whom remain unnamed even though, after
much deliberation, I have chosen to identify their village because my name
is already associated with it in permit papers ﬁled with state authorities.
The creative energy of Ali Mohammad, Apo Roziali, Bashir Ahmed Wafa,
Master Sadiq Ali, Mipham Otsal, Morup Namgyal, Nasser Hussain Munshi,
Niyaz Munshi, Phuntsog Dinbir, Sukye Bulu, Tashi Tshomo, Tsheshu Lhamo,
and Zainul Abideen was instrumental in my understanding of performances
in Achinathang, Leh, and Kargil. Tshering Samphel, Rigzin Johra, Thup-
stan Tshewang, Councilor Spalzes Angmo, Akbar Ladakhi, Azgar Karbalai,
Shaﬁ Lasoo, Hassan Khan, Gulzar Munshi, Spalzes Angmo, Rigzin Spalbar,
Maulvi Omar, Wangchug Tshao, Thinles Angmo, Tshangspai Chocho, and