torsdag 25. april 2024

Herders on front line of India’s Himalayan dispute with China say they’re losing grazing land – and a way of life

High in the Himalayas, the people of a remote northern Indian territory fear their way of life is under threat from the changing climate, looming development – and border tensions with China. At stake, they believe, is the future of Ladakh, one of the world’s highest elevation regions, where indigenous tribes maintain nomadic traditions on sprawling plains hemmed in by mountains punctuated by Buddhist monasteries.

For years, Lopzang Dadul herded his yaks, sheep and goats across the vast, vertiginous landscape near India’s contested border with China, following the seasons to find grazing land. But now, Dadul says, shepherds are being barred by the Indian military from lands that for generations sustained Ladakh’s nomadic way of life – a situation he and others say has worsened following a deadly 2020 border clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers. “In India, the army is not letting us go to places which they call no-man’s land … civilians are not allowed to go there anymore,” says Dadul, 33, a father of two from the village of Phobrang. “If we do not get enough land we will have to sell our livestock … and look for another option.”

Ladakh’s herders inhabit what is now a highly strategically sensitive area, where India’s contested 2,100-mile (3,379-kilometer) boundary with China has for decades been a source of friction between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.