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Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike Draws Nationwide Attention

It’s been two weeks since climate activist Sonam Wangchuk has been on a hunger strike in Ladakh’s capital Leh.

The 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient is advocating for special status and statehood for Ladakh by sitting on a strike in sub-zero temperatures

Since his fast began, he has regularly been posting on social media, talking about how BJP has failed to meet their demands repeatedly.

In his latest video, Wangchuk said to show the ground reality he is planning a Border March of 10,000 Ladakhi shepherds & farmers soon.

Wangchuk also questioned the Centre as to whether turning Ladakh into a Union Territory was a tactic to hand over their mountains to industrial and mining companies.

Wangchuk added that Ladakh lacks democratic representation, just as before.

Here’s some context.

In 2019, the Modi government struck down Article 370 which granted special status on Jammu and Kashmir.

Following this, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were made 2 Union Territories.

The move was reportedly celebrated in Leh, the regional capital, where voters accused the Kashmir-based leadership of discrimination against the Buddhist-majority region known for its scenic beauty.

Recently, the Ladakhi leaderships entered into talks with Centre to discuss their demands for Ladakh’s statehood, inclusion of the Union Territory in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the setting up of an exclusive public service commission for the high-altitude region. The talks, however, remained inconclusive.

It was after this that Sonam Wangchuk began his strike.

Speaking from Leh earlier this month, he underlined two appeals in his address ahead of the protest: an appeal to all people to lead simpler lives, and a direct appeal to the government to fulfil its promise to include Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and give statehood for the region.

He argues that external influence poses a threat to their tribal identity.

The government’s decision to directly administer the territory from New Delhi has sparked concerns about democratic marginalization, lack of input in development projects, and militarization of the ecologically sensitive Himalayan region, situated at an altitude of 5,730 meters, around 18,800 feet.

Mr Wangchuk emphasized and I quote, “The aim is to raise awareness among people in other parts of the country about the false promises made to us. But the fight extends beyond Ladakh; it’s for the nation.”

Support for Ladakh has emerged from 20 cities across India, including Mumbai, Pune, and Hyderabad.

Reportedly, large protests are scheduled for March 20 and March 24 in some parts of the country.

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