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Flagging Chinese incursions for long, Galwan flare-up was waiting to happen: Ladakh leaders

Local leaders, cutting across party lines, say authorities at all levels ignored red flags, but Ladakh development council chief claims such inputs were never received.

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Leh (Ladakh): The violent faceoff with China that left 20 Indian soldiers dead in Eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on 15 June shocked the world and the country in equal measure.  

But as India and China lock horns in a dangerous flare-up not seen in decades, several local leaders in Ladakh and villagers along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) said the writing was on the wall. 

Speaking to ThePrint, local leaders claimed that the Chinese have been intruding into Indian land for years, and that they had raised red flags with authorities at all levels — from the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), which governs the region, to BJP MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal and even the central government. 

Their concerns and red flags, they added, were ignored time and again, though LAHDC chairperson Gyal P. Wangyal said the council never received any such input from any local leader.  

Also read: China is on LAC to tell India who the ‘big brother’ is, not to gain territory

‘Chinese prevent nomads from grazing on Indian land’

Ladakhis living along the border areas claim that they have been losing their grazing land due to increased Chinese presence for the last many years. 

Spearheading the cause of the nomads has been the Nyoma Block Development Council Chairperson Urgain Chodon, who in a series of Facebook posts since last year has claimed that the Chinese were increasingly threatening nomads in the Nyoma block. 

The Nyoma block abuts the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and is about 60 km from Pangong Lake.

The Facebook posts by Chodon, a BJP leader from a nomadic family, date back to May 2019. 

Four days before the Galwan Valley attack, on 11 June, she had shared her earlier post from 11 July 2019, in which she had written that Chinese PLA soldiers had entered 6 km into Indian territory at Dhola village in Nyoma Block, unfurled their national flag and stopped locals from hoisting the Indian, Tibetan, and Buddhist flags to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday. The post also says that later in December 2019, they claimed the adjoining land as theirs. 

In another post on Facebook, she said PLA soldiers had threatened villagers and warned them against grazing in territory that they claimed was Chinese land. 

“Not just for the past couple of months, I have been raising these concerns since 2015,” Chodon told ThePrint. “As recently as April, I posted about how we noticed 300-350 Chinese vehicular movement but I deleted the posts later because I was told my posts are creating panic.” 

Konchok Stanzin, executive councillor, LAHDC, also of the BJP, too acknowledged that small flashpoints have been occurring for a couple of years now. “There have been small skirmishes over Chinese flags and banners being unfurled in Chumul, Demchok (at Nyoma Block), Chushul (at adjoining Durbuk Block) and even Pangong since 2017. But they have been short-lived and have been resolved locally,” he said.

Not just local BJP leaders, even Congress leaders have claimed that Chinese presence has only increased over the years. 

Rigzin Spalbar, former chief executive chairman of the LAHDC, said a canal he inaugurated in Demchok in 2013 was occupied by the Chinese in 2018. “I inaugurated the canal on Gandhi Jayanti in 2013,” he said. “In 2018, the Chinese were sitting over there and had taken away our nomads’ summer pasture land. What more proof do you want?” 

Not just leaders, but locals too have raised concerns about increased Chinese presence on Indian grazing lands. A local resident from Changthang region’s Phobrang village, about 15 km from Pangong Lake, told ThePrint that his family has been stopped by Chinese from grazing their herds. 

“Earlier my family could go as far as the Green Top area near the LAC to graze our herd. But then the Chinese began stopping us,” said the resident, who didn’t want to be named. “My father used to say that he would earlier see the Chinese below Green Top Hill, now they’re right on top of Green Top Hill so we stopped grazing there.”

Green Top Hill is above the finger area of Pangong Lake.  

Also read: How Indian troops chased the Chinese for a kilometre over LAC in Galwan on 15 June night

Top leadership ‘ignored’ concerns

Local Ladakh leaders claimed that they have raised these concerns with the top leadership-even as high as the local MP, the defence minister and even the Prime Minister, but to no avail. 

“Every year Chinese have been moving inch by inch towards Finger 4. We have raised these concerns that China is moving in and our nomads are not being allowed to move — not just with the LAHDC chairperson but also with former J&K Governor Satyapal Malik, present Ladakh L-G R.K. Mathur, MP Namgyal and even the PM when he visited in 2019,” said Tashi Namgyal, councillor of Tangtse constituency, to ThePrint. “We have given reports but we don’t know what has happened.” 

Tashi Namgyal during his visit to Pangong Tso last year | By special arrangement
Tashi Namgyal during his visit to Pangong Tso last week | By special arrangement

According to New Delhi’s claims, Finger 4 on the northern bank of the Pangong Lake is part of Indian territory as India’s claim line is at Finger 8. 

Local leaders claimed that they have been raising this issue for years. “In August 2015, when then defence minister Manohar Parrikar visited Leh, I informed him about increasing Chinese presence and how they were not allowing our nomads to graze their herds by occupying areas near the border,” said the Congress’ Spalbar. “The Army’s GoC Northern Command was also present when I brought this to the Minister’s notice. But nothing came off it.”

Residents claimed that when MP Namgyal visited Changthang last year, they wanted to take him to show the exact spots where the Chinese had allegedly come in. “When the MP visited earlier this year, we wanted to show him the spot where Chinese had come in and were not allowing us nomads to graze our herds,” said the local resident from Changthang. “But since it was 40 km away, the Army did not allow.” 

LAHDC chairperson Gyal P. Wangyal, however, denied receiving any such input from any local leader. “We have not ignored any red flags. I don’t know how they have made such claims. My source reports don’t claim any such instances. PM Modi too has said there has been no territory claimed by the Chinese and we should believe him,” Wangyal said in an interview to ThePrint. 

ThePrint tried to reach MP Namgyal over phone and through WhatsApp messages for a comment but he did not respond. This report will be updated if he replies.

‘Allow our nomads to move freely to avoid Chinese occupation’

The way out of “the Chinese inch-by-inch occupation”, local leaders said, was to allow Ladakhi nomads to graze in their traditional pastures in areas close to the LAC. 

“The biggest issue is that the Army is stopping our nomads from going to traditional pasturelands citing security,” Spalbar said. “When China sees there are no nomads, they send their nomads from Tibet. Our Army doesn’t object and our nomads aren’t there so then the PLA soldiers come in and pitch tents and set up camps.”

Some leaders also claimed that ITBP and Army personnel often look at villagers with suspicion and stop them from proceeding further. “Instead of looking at villagers with suspicion, the government should ensure nomads aren’t stopped,” Tashi Namgyal said. “Look at China, they always send their nomads first and then PLA soldiers follow. The government must come up with a similar policy.”

The leaders also said the time is ripe to acknowledge the role of nomads in border villages in maintaining national security. “Nomads are the vanguards of our borders. Big words like patriotism and nationalism are used but when it comes to the issue of borders only border people are bothered,” Chodon said. “Nobody comes to our aid. We have been losing our land for years but nobody cares.” 

Army sources in the Northern Command, however, told ThePrint that nomads were never stopped from carrying out their grazing activity. “Army has never stopped them and Indian grazers are continuing their activities unhindered in these areas.”

Also read: Army holds porter recruitment rally in Leh amid LAC stand-off with China, Covid crisis


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    Yes, I inaugurated a Canal at its Head Work at Demjok on 2nd October 2013 for pasture development. It’s the huge summer Pasture land named ‘Nelung Valley’ ahead of the same Canal, which I had visited then too, stands intuded by China now, not the Canal, as mistakenly stated in Print report. Army has now, made this valley out of bound for the nomads of Demjok and Koyul. This, Nelung Valley is strategically very important for India.

  2. We fear China too much and that helps them . This tolerant Hindu culture and ass hole Gandhi theory of always taking correct side even when it hurts us is doing more damage . Just don’t fear and do what u want and u can see the change in behaviour of China

  3. In nut shell lot many border people of laddak told the b.j.p about China’s red flag presence in the laddak territory but chaukidar of b.j.p were sleeping and the prime chaukidar seems pretending to be asleep even now na koi ghusa tha na ghusa hain.uttering in his sleep where as the intruder is enjoying party inthe house where it ghusa in broad day light.

  4. Indian Politico military leadership has bluffed the people of India and failed to display an iota of ghairat

  5. We must act to reclaim our lost land. A kargil like short war is possible to take back our land . Daulat Beg Oldie is our land .

  6. China is a super power and a peace loving country unlike india which has border issues with all its neighbours, Sri lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and China thereby meaning that she is the epicentre of all evils inthe region including state sponsored terrorism, not only in endian occupied Kashmir but also in the surrounding countries in one way or the other. endia should shun away the hegemonic designs and expansionist ideas and instead should pay attention to its abysmal poverty.

  7. All the time we are busy challenging Pakistan and with no attention to China.Things like CAA,NRC in which some people are sent to jail is deviding our people lowering our moral.We should build a strong India to face our enemies.

  8. It is a well documented matter that the Chinese have been intruding into our territory for the last over 40 yrs. It’s acknowledgement and counting action is another matter. Incursions have also been reported from time to time to G.O.I. But an appeasement policy seems to be in place.
    I doubt now suddenly we can suddenly push back Chinese from ‘occupied’ land.
    We need a consistent long term policy which has been thought out; but not implemented ever. With the Chinese there can be no short term solutions and certainly no mob mentality ones.

  9. Ladakh& Tibat were part of Kingdom of a country
    named KASHMIR in the Kashmir rulers ruled up to
    Sindh;jamu & Ladakh were minor localities.with the down fall of viramadity the Hindu ruler;it was ruled by Buddhists then Afghans followed by chack
    Dynasty last Kashmiri rulers.Itwas annexed to India by Akbar.India was rarely full fledged country
    It was made so by Mughals.

  10. You can employ a guard to safeguard your property.
    But it is your duty to ensure that the guard does his duty
    This responsibility falls on the PM, Defense Minister, Home Minister, Local administration and the bureaucracy.
    These matters must be formalized and presented before Parliament.
    This is for future guidance.

  11. Sadly Indian Army is an eager lackey of the petty political mischief-makers. Good luck managing the Chinese. What matters more to the military leadership is getting plum assignments in Delhi.

  12. The comments of Mr .Wangyal and some other local leaders are worth treasuring, A few gems:
    “PM Modi too has said there has been no territory claimed by the Chinese and we should believe him,”
    “When China sees there are no nomads, they send their nomads from Tibet. Our Army doesn’t object and our nomads aren’t there so then the PLA soldiers come in and pitch tents and set up camps.”
    “As recently as April, I posted about how we noticed 300-350 Chinese vehicular movement but I deleted the posts later because I was told my posts are creating panic.”
    “The biggest issue is that the Army is stopping our nomads from going to traditional pasture lands citing security,”

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