Namgyal Durbuk, a former councillor from Ladakh has said that the Indian government is lying about the border and that no land has been taken by China. “Our vast green pastures, where local herders used take their cattle, have been taken over. A number of locals have been forced by this situation to sell their cattle and move towards urban settlements for their livelihood”, Durbuk said.
After the tensions escalating on the Indo-Nepal border since May, the fighting that took place between the two nuclear-armed countries, is being termed as the worst face-off between the two nations since 1967, in which 20 Indian soldiers died and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed.
On Friday, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, made a surprise visit to a military post in Ladakh, in what many took as a clear message to China.
China and India both have been accusing each other over the border row and now both have made their claim over Galwan valley.
To those living along the poorly demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, a statement by Modi in the aftermath of the attack, that “China did not enter our territory” rang false. They allege Chinese incursions into Galwan and other disputed areas, such Pangong Tso, are just a continuation of the norm.
As per the reports published in The Guardian, China has constructed a radar tower at Finger Four and other structures in just the last few weeks, despite agreements to disengage.
Taking out a notebook, Durbuk drew a map to demonstrate the Indian territory lost in Galwan. He pointed out a water handpump installed in 2010 by local authorities for herders, who used to bring their cattle and flocks of Cashmere wool-producing Changra goats to graze on high-altitude pastures near the border.
But these herders have been driven away and their water pump is now accompanied by Chinese military infrastructure. “The area is under Chinese army control and they have constructed roads and built structures there,” said Durbuk.
In February, a group of local councillors gave a written memorandum to Modi, warning him about the capture of vast pasture lands by China. Even, BJP’s own concillor Tashi Namgyal said, “We have been raising the issue of Chinese advancement with the government and army for years. The Chinese have been taking over huge patches of land every year.”
Another BJP councillor, Urgain Chodon, 30, whose village Koyal is situated along the LAC, alleged China has not only been annexing Indian territory but actively building infrastructure. “The Chinese come with their machinery – dumpers, earth movers – and construct roads and then claim later that it is their territory. When the herders would go to the places they were visiting every year, they would find Chinese occupying these areas,” she said.