Cong hits out at HM on China stopping Ind graziers

The Congress on Friday hit out at the government after a video clip purportedly showed Indian shepherds confronting Chinese soldiers after being stopped from grazing their animals in an area in eastern Ladakh, and asked the home minister if there has been any effort to protect them from Chinese “harassment”. In a statement, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh asked how many such incidents have happened since May 2020 and if Indian graziers suffered any injuries in such encounters.

The shepherds were reportedly stopped by Chinese soldiers in an area south of Chushul in eastern Ladakh last month and a purported video of the incident was circulated on social media.

Reacting to the development, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that the two sides are aware of the traditional grazing areas and any incident of friction is dealt with under existing mechanisms.

Ramesh said the Ministry of External Affairs’ weak response to the incident is par for the course for the Narendra Modi government.

“…we have seen how the Modi government has failed to prevent the Chinese from denying our troops and graziers access to 2,000 square kilometres of territory in eastern Ladakh for the past four years, despite 18 rounds of military talks.

“But the MEA and the Ministry of Defence are not the only authorities involved here. Border management comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is the responsibility of the Home Ministry to ensure that Indian graziers are able to exercise their rights as citizens inside Indian territory,” the Congress leader said in the statement.

Ramesh said the home minister should answer how many such incidents have happened since May 2020, when the Indian and Chinese troops engaged in a standoff in eastern Ladakh.

“Have our graziers suffered any injuries or material losses in these encounters? Has there been any effort to protect them from Chinese harassment or are they forced to defend themselves with no support from the ITBP as it appeared in the video?” he asked.

On Thursday, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said, “The two sides are aware of the traditional grazing areas in the border areas. Any incident of friction is dealt with traditional mechanisms as appropriate.”

The Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year confrontation in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.

The eastern Ladakh border standoff erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area.

India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas.

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Roy Walsh

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