Jammu & Kashmir

Protests will continue as BJP didn’t fulfil Sixth Schedule promise: Sonam Wangchuk

Sonam Wangchuk on hunger strike surviving only on salt and drinking water.

Ladakh: Sonam Wangchuk has vowed to continue protests after accusing the BJP of reneging on its promise to include Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Wangchuk emphasised the importance of this inclusion to protect Ladakh’s land and environment from corporate exploitation and foreign encroachment.

Despite previous assurances during the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2020 Hill Development Council elections, the government has not fulfilled its commitments, prompting Wangchuk and supporters to persist in their efforts until their demands are met.

In March, climate activist Sonam Wangchuk led a 21-day fast in sub-zero temperatures in Leh, demanding autonomy for Ladakh. Thousands joined him, including many inspired by his story that influenced the character Rancho in the film “3 Idiots”. After ending his fast on March 26, Wangchuk began a sit-in which concluded on May 10 due to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The government did not grant the protesters’ demands for Ladakh’s statehood and inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Wangchuk emphasised the need to protect Ladakh’s land and environment from corporate and foreign encroachment.

He argued that the Sixth Schedule, which grants autonomy to tribal areas in other states, is essential to safeguard Ladakh’s unique ecological and cultural heritage.

Wangchuk voiced concerns over a 10 GW solar power project planned in the Pang region, which would occupy 20,000 acres of pastureland crucial for local Pashmina goat herders.

He suggested that corporate pressure might be influencing the government’s reluctance to provide safeguards and vowed to continue the movement until the government changes its stance or is replaced.

Wangchuk highlighted the BJP’s unfulfilled promises from the 2019 and 2020 elections to protect Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule, leading to the recent protests. Despite administrative restrictions, he believes the protests effectively highlighted their cause.

Wangchuk remains hopeful that a future government will address their demands and is prepared to continue the fight if necessary. Ladakh is set to vote in the Lok Sabha elections on May 20.

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