In the heartland of Changpas, brand ‘Ladakh’ battles Beijing’s belligerence

China Ladakh
In the past decade, the nomadic tribes of eastern Ladakh have lost much of their grazing lands to Chinese incursions | Photo - Safeena Wani

These days, Nurgugu, a 35-year-old pastoralist from Ladakh’s Chushul hamlet in Changthang region, remains busy combing and shearing Changras—also known as Pashmina goats. Every year, from May to June, he and his tribesmen sell much of their raw Pashmina to customers who visit them after travelling miles. The rest of the stock goes to the tribe women who spin the wool into yarn. Wool from pashmina goats is known for being the softest and most expensive cashmere in the world.

Spread over 29,000 square kilometers, Changthang is a borderland representing India’s point of territorial contact with Chinese-controlled Tibet, where pastoralists and nomadic populations on both sides of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) are settled. Around 1,200 families of the Changpa tribe live there, with 2.5 lakh Pashmina goats.

Nurgugu is worried that his trade has taken a hit after the Chinese recently captured more pasture lands and shrank the grazing area, which would affect the next year’s Pashmina produce.

“In the past decade, we have lost much of our grazing lands to Chinese incursions,” says Nurgugu. “Every year, these Chinese would encroach slowly, but this year, they have eaten away a major chunk of our pasture land in one go.”

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