China’s growing presence in east Ladakh’s Gogra area has caused problems for villagers, who are unable to access a huge piece of land used for grazing, The Hindu reported on Thursday, citing a councillor from the region.

Konchok Stanzin, a councillor from Ladakh’s Chushul village, claimed that the Indian Army has not been allowing villagers from Yourgo, Lukung and Phobrang to access the Kiu La pass, where they used to take their cattle for grazing years ago.

“A group of villagers marched to the Kiu La pass a few days ago but they were denied access by the Army,” Stanzin said, according to The Hindu. “There used to be a bunker on the upper reaches, but it is no longer there.”

The councillor added: “We fear that the Chinese are nibbling away at our territory. This was never a disputed area.”

Army officials have refused to comment on the matter. But on April 2, the Union defence ministry had told the councillor that cattle grazers had been asked to restrict their movements because of “the present operational situation in Ladakh”, The Hindu reported.

India and China have been locked in a standoff in the eastern Ladakh region since May 2020. Chinese troops had clashed with the Indian Army at several points along the Line of Actual Control that month.

Gogra has been of one of the multiple friction points between armies of the two countries.

The two countries do not share a defined and demarcated border. Instead, there is the Line of Actual Control, which stretches thousands of kilometres from Ladakh all the way to Arunachal Pradesh.

Tensions between the two countries escalated after the violent face-off in Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. The two countries have held several rounds of military and diplomatic talks to resolve the tensions.

India and China had in February this year disengaged from Pangong Tso lake in eastern Ladakh. After the commander level talks on July 31, the two countries also agreed to disengage from Gogra.

Also read: India, China agree to disengage in eastern Ladakh’s Gogra area

However, Stanzin has claimed that the situation on the ground was still not normal, the Hindustan Times reported.

He added: “This year after a gap of 8 years -10 years the nomads on their own decided to take their yaks to Khu-la and Tsogtsalu [villages], but they could not reach the areas that are their traditional grounds.

The councillor said that the Centre should help nomads get access to grazing areas.

“Nomads play an important role in guarding the border, they work as both ear and eyes to the nation,” he told the Hindustan Times.

Stanzin told The Hindu that China had built roads and permanent structures near the Line of Actual Control.

He also flagged the unavailability of mobile networks in border areas. “Despite repeated pleas, the administration has not acted,” the councillor claimed. “It is frustrating. They fix the phone lines for a few hours whenever a VIP arrives here. It’s back to square one once they leave.”