‘Large grazing area lost to growing Chinese presence in eastern Ladakh’

This was never a disputed area, says Chushul councillor

Villagers have lost access to a vast grazing area near Gogra in eastern Ladakh owing to growing Chinese presence in the area, Konchok Stanzin, a councillor from Chushul has claimed.

Gogra is one of the several friction points in eastern Ladakh where Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a stand-off since April-May 2020. The troops have disengaged from the north and south banks of the Pangong Tso and Gogra sector, creating “no zones” in areas along the undemarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) that was regularly patrolled by Indian troops pre-April 2020.

Mr. Stanzin told The Hindu that the Army has stopped the villagers’ access to the Kiu La pass that was till a few years ago frequented by the villagers of Lukung, Phobrang and Yourgo for cattle-grazing.

“A group of villagers marched to the Kiu La pass a few days ago but they were denied access by the Army. There used to be a bunker on the upper reaches, but it is no longer there. We fear that the Chinese are nibbling away at our territory. This was never a disputed area,” Mr. Stanzin said.

He added that the area does not have a phone or Internet connectivity and the villagers had decided to go there on their own initiative.

No connectivity

Since April 2020, Chinese troops have blocked Indian troops from reaching at least 10 patrolling points (PPs) in eastern Ladakh — running from Depsang plains in the north to the Pangong Tso lake in the south. In all, there are more than 65 PPs from the base of the Karakoram to Chumar.

Mr. Stanzin said that China has constructed permanent structures and roads close to the LAC while the Indian side could only boast of a few roads. “There is no mobile connectivity in border areas and despite repeated pleas, the administration has not acted. It is frustrating. They fix the phone lines for a few hours whenever a VIP arrives here. It’s back to square one once they leave,” he said.

On April 2, the Ministry of Defence in a communication to Mr. Stanzin said, “due to the present operational situation in Ladakh, grazers have been asked to restrict their cattle movements”.

Army authorities when contacted declined to comment.

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