Something unprecedented happened in eastern Ladakh where Chinese troops are locked in a tense standoff position with the Indian army for the past nearly four years – the local nomads defied and resisted the PLA troops and made them to flee by pelting them with stones .It’s a stunning defeat of the Chinese army, both militarily, politically. And this is also the sign of things visiting eastern Ladakh.
This extraordinary development is significant because of the past history of the place when PLA troops used to prevent nomads from grazing close to the border areas and the shepherds would retreat without ra9sing any questions. And this also is the time when the PLA troops are locked in a standoff with the Indian Army since April-May 2020. These are critical defining factors that show that how the situation is fast changing and the locals have started asserting themselves in the adverse situations and taking on the Chinese troops.
In a video circulated by Konchak Stanzin , Councillor of Chushul constituency of eastern Ladakh , in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council ( Leh) on X, formerly Twitter, it is seen that local nomads after having a contentious argument with the PLA troops who appear to be telling them, not to graze their sheep in the glazing land near the Line of Actual Control are pelted with stones . In the wake of this resistance by the nomads, the Chinese troops retreat to their side. This was a display of exceptional courage by the nomads of eastern Ladakh.
The grazing fields are very critical to the local economy. The Pashmina wool producing goats are grazed in these pastures and grasslands. Pashmina is one of the most precious wools in the world, and it is expens9ve too. The Ladakh Pashmina is famous world over. It is the backbone of the rural economy of Ladakh.
Chinese troops were in habit of preventing the Ladakhi nomads from accessing the pastures on the land, claiming that the territory belonged to them. They would get Chinese nomads to the area and facilitate their grazing. This phenomenon had become a norm, and the local nomads of Ladakh had come to accept it.
It was due to the efforts of the Indian army that has mobilized itself in large numbers in eastern Ladakh to resist the Chinese Troops who had created a standoff situation in an intimidating manner, which has added to the confidence of the local people. They draw their confidence from the assertive presence of the Indian troops. It is particularly noticeable because the standoff situation had not been without the deadly clashes in the past. Twenty Indian soldiers, including a Commanding officer, were killed in Galwan valley on June 15/16, 2020. That had created a lot of confusion in the minds of the people. They were apprehending worse situations, but now all that seemed to have changed.
Local nomads had accessed the traditional pastures after many, many years ago. Expressing the gratitude to the Fire and Fury Corps of the Indian army that guards frontiers in Ladakh region with China and Pakistan, including Siachen glacier, Stanzin said: “It was heartening to see the positive impact made by the Fire and Fury Corps in border areas of eastern Ladakh in facilitating the grazers and nomads to assert their rights in traditional grazing grounds along the north bank of Pangong “
This incident that occurred in early January has reflected the changing situation as also the increased confidence of the locals, which is very, very, crucial for the security along the borders with China. So far the narrative had been that China had been dominating the LAC, now the things are other way round.
Arun Joshi is author of “Eyewitness Kashmir; Teetering on Nuclear War and senior journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir, writes on South Asian affairs)
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