Amid India-China tensions, Ladakh’s nomads face a frostier winter

Ladakh winter
The fear of the uncertain environment — the ongoing India-China tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh region — and scarcity of winter pasturelands in border villages amid massive military footfall and infrastructure buildup is adversely affecting the nomadic herdsmen community in Changthang region | Image - Eunice Dhivya

As yet another bone-numbing winter engulfed the cold desert of Ladakh, 30-year-old Tsering Tobgay arrived in Leh town to trade off his most prized possession — 20 Pashmina goats.

The nomad from Chushul village of eastern Ladakh got a meagre ₹1 lakh for them. That’s one-fourth of what he used to get in normal times. Yet Tobgay went ahead with the distress sale driven by the fear of the uncertain environment — the ongoing India-China tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh region — and scarcity of winter pasturelands in his border village amid massive military footfall and infrastructure buildup.

“This year, the lingering faceoff has left us worried for our lives and livelihood,” says Tobgay. “The young people among us have never seen a situation like this before.”

After a macabre summer during which at least 20 Indian army men were killed in June, eastern Ladakh’s Changthang area stands frozen even as New Delhi rushed additional troops — including the Marine Commandos (MARCOS) of the Indian Navy to patrol the Pangong Tso. With the border standoff now entering its seventh month, efforts have been increased to keep the snowbound Zoji La pass near Sonamarg in Kashmir open for winter traffic to Ladakh.

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