First Person

At the India – China border in Ladakh, this is what I witness every day

It has been a year and a half since we have been facing war-like situations at the Indo-China border area in Ladakh. Despite the government’s claims that everything is normal, claims that have been parroted by the media, the situation in our land is much different from what it was earlier.

By Konchok Stanzin, 16 Oct 2021

My people in Chushuk, in eastern Ladakh, are used to taking their livestock to different seasonal patches for grazing. They are now being stopped from visiting areas earmarked for this very purpose. This summer, some of our Yak herders decided to go to a winter grazing land to feed their livestock but they were barred from entering the area.

About ten days ago, our grazers went towards Gurung Hill to feed but they were stopped there as well. The security forces have even threatened to register an FIR under their name after the grazers fought for what was their right.

Our grazing patches have been declared as no-man’s land. These are now areas of dispute. When I compare the land that we have left now, with what we had access to a year and a half ago, I see a great decline. A large part of our own land is inaccessible to us. We are being stopped from grazing our animals on the land we call ours. Why is this being done to us if things are still as normal as everyone claims them to be?

In Chushuk, there is a lot more troop deployment in the border areas now, on our side, and on the Chinese side too. In fact, in all my years here, this is the largest deployment of troops I have seen since 1962.

Yes, disengagement did happen in a number of areas. However, this disengagement was more of a redeployment as troops were shifted from one vulnerable area to the other. Last winter, there was heavy deployment towards Gurung Hill. Now, the troops have shifted towards the Galwan Valley, the Hot Springs, and the Gogra area.

Our grazers are not allowed to visit these parts anymore. Even today, the media is not allowed to visit the villages that lie on or close to the border. Why is the media being stopped from talking to these people if everything is normal?

All of this makes it clear that things are yet to normalize on our lands. Whenever there is a high-level talk between the armies of the two countries, the result is never communicated to us. This has also led to a communication gap between the army and the civilians.

Every time a VIP visits the area, the network is suspended. Why does that happen? If the security forces can continue with 4G & 5G networks, why can’t we? We barely have a mobile phone and we seldom get any network access, and even that is disconnected at times like this. It becomes bothersome for many that live close to the borders.

The grazers in our area have different winter and summer grazing grounds. If a valley has pasture that would last for ten days straight, grazers will take livestock there daily. Last winter, we were stopped from visiting our winter grazing areas due to heavy security deployment. Amidst all the uncertainty, we can only wonder what will happen in the coming winters.