Jammu & Kashmir

Sonam Wangchuk’s hunger strike for Ladakh’s autonomy, ecology enters day 19

Sonam Wangchuk’s hunger strike enters day 19 on March 25, 2024.

Leh: Sonam Wangchuk, renowned for his educational reforms and sustainable development initiatives in Ladakh, has been staging a protest at an altitude of 3,500 meters above sea level, enduring sub-zero temperatures, since March 6.

His protest aims to advocate for autonomy in Ladakh and draw attention to the ecological threats posed by industrialisation in the Himalayan region.

Wangchuk’s demands include statehood for Ladakh and the implementation of the Sixth Schedule to safeguard tribal areas. He alleges that industrial plants and Chinese encroachment are encroaching upon Ladakh’s vital pasture lands. Wangchuk plans a Border March involving 10,000 Ladakhi shepherds and farmers to demonstrate the ground reality.

Furthermore, Wangchuk seeks separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil, increased job opportunities for locals, and the establishment of a Public Service Commission for Leh and Kargil districts.

Expressing concerns over environmental degradation caused by industrialisation, Wangchuk criticises the government of India for greenlighting a 13-gigawatt project without local consultation.

Joined by scores of Ladakhi residents, Wangchuk has been on a hunger strike for nearly 20 days, demanding measures to protect Ladakh’s fragile ecosystem. His protest in Leh has garnered nationwide support, with individuals from various parts of India expressing solidarity.

“Today some 5000 people joined me here at Leh for day long fast and some 300 are sleeping here… for 3 to 10 days fast. Today all over India, some 40 cities saw Friends of Ladakh events. Ladakh it’s people and its mountains & glaciers will remain ever grateful for this show of solidarity,” the Educationist tweeted on March 25, which is his 19th day climate fast.

Leaders of the Kargil Democratic Alliance have initiated a hunger strike in Kargil’s Hussaini Park, echoing Wangchuk’s call for statehood.

Support for Wangchuk’s cause has also emerged from the farmers’ protest movement across India.

As protests intensify in Ladakh and Kargil, Wangchuk remains accompanied by 5,000 locals, reminding the Indian government of its commitments to preserve Ladakh’s environment and indigenous tribal culture.

Today, 5,000 people joined Wangchuk in Leh for a day-long fast, with 300 committing to fasting for three to ten days. Additionally, “Friends of Ladakh” events were held in 40 cities across India, demonstrating widespread solidarity with Ladakh’s cause.

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