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Shepherds in Ladakh take on Chinese soldiers to assert right over their grazing land

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan31’24) Shepherds in India’s Union Territory of Ladakh have clashed with Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on Jan 2 in a dispute over a piece of grazing land arising from difference in the two sides’ perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along occupied Tibet’s border, according to Indian media reports over Jan 30-31.

A video shared on social media site X by Chushul Councillor Konchok Stanzin and others on other online sites as well, such as Instagram, show Chinese soldiers in armoured vehicles engaging with nomads, who could be heard arguing in Tibetan that they had been grazing their livestock at that location for a long time.

Locals and officials said that the clash took place in Kakjung area of Nyoma village in Chushul Valley, which borders Tibet, reported The Wire Jan 30.

The incident began with a group of local herders being intercepted at Patrolling Point 35, 36 and 37 in Dungti village of Nyoma along the border by at least a dozen visibly unarmed soldiers of the PLA, who were accompanied by three armoured vehicles, the report said.

“Why have you come here? Why have you brought your vehicles here,” the herder can be seen shouting at a PLA soldier in Tibetan language, as the siren of one of the PLA armoured vehicles blares in the background.

“This is our ancestral land. We graze our livestock here.”

The 9-minute, 50-second video shows the PLA soldiers and the herders getting into a heated argument as they come face to face. The video shows one batch of Chinese soldiers, led by an armoured vehicle, pushing the herders and their livestock back.

A PLA soldier can also be seen blocking the camera lens of the herder, who is shooting the incident, even as his fellow soldiers around him continue to film the incident while waving at the herders to move out of the area.

A visibly-agitated herder then breaks from the scene, pulls out a sling from beneath his coat, puts a stone in it and swings it at the incoming armoured vehicle, which visibly escaped the hit, the report noted.

After the clash, the herders were forced to move out of the area, sparking anger in the nomadic community who depend on the pastures in the highlands of Ladakh for their survival, the report said.

But the hindustantimes.com Jan 31 quoted Mr Tsering Namgyal, the leader of the Opposition in Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Leh and sitting councillor from Leh City, as saying that despite Chinese attempt to scare them away, “the shepherds put up a brave face and refused to leave the place and even pelted a few stones at the Chinese soldiers.”

He has also said that after heated arguments, the Chinese soldiers left the place.

“Following the incident, Indian Army and Chinese Army … met in the Chushul sector on the same day to resolve the issue before it could flare up. On Jan 11, the sub divisional magistrate of Nyoma block, Jigmet Angchuk also visited the place to assess the situation,” he has added.

Spalzang has emphasised the valley’s significance for winter cattle grazing. He has recalled a similar attempt by the Chinese in 2019, countered by locals pitching tents to assert their claim.

The nearest Indian army unit was stated to be located approximately 5-7 km away.

Despite multiple rounds of talks between the two countries to resolve the border issue, numerous areas in eastern Ladakh have become “buffer zones,” with both Indian troops and Chinese forces refraining from patrolling, noted the livemint.com Jn 31.

Earlier, at his annual media briefing on Jan 11, the Indian Army Chief, General Manoj Pande, said the situation in the Ladakh sector of the LAC was “stable, yet sensitive,” adding that the army’s operational preparedness was high, and its deployments “robust and balanced.”

Talks at the military and diplomatic levels were on to resolve the outstanding issues along LAC, he said.

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