Independent , Honest and Dignified Journalism

Sonam Wangchuk Unveils ‘Border March’: A Stand for Ladakh’s Statehood and Environmental Integrity

Leh, 27-03-2024 : Climate activist Sonam Wangchuk made a resolute announcement on Wednesday, revealing plans for an escalated movement aimed at shedding light on the ground realities of Ladakh. Wangchuk disclosed that the agitation, centered on demanding statehood for Ladakh, will intensify, with a significant event labeled as the ‘border march’ scheduled for April 7 in the eastern sector of the Union territory. The primary objective of this march is to draw attention to various pressing issues, including alleged encroachments by China.

Being a prominent figure in the Leh-based Apex body, which encompasses a spectrum of social, religious, and political organizations, Wangchuk emphasized the adoption of Gandhian principles in their approach. He stressed the significance of this methodology in safeguarding the delicate environment of the region and preserving the indigenous essence of its populace.

Expressing the sentiments of the movement, Wangchuk articulated, “We are followers of (Mahatma) Gandhi’s Satyagraha. We are demanding the fulfillment of the promises made to us by this (BJP) government through its manifestos which led its candidates to win parliamentary polls (in 2019) and hill council polls in Leh (2020).”

Having recently concluded a 21-day hunger strike in support of Ladakh’s statehood demand and its inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, Wangchuk outlined the future course of action. Following the initial hunger strike phase, a chain hunger strike involving women, youth, religious leaders, and elders will ensue. Subsequently, on April 7, a march to Changthang, situated in the eastern region of Leh along the border with China, will commence, drawing parallels to Gandhi’s iconic Dandi March during the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Wangchuk lamented the loss of prime pasture lands by nomads to large industrial projects in the southern region and alleged encroachments by China in the north. He highlighted the plight of Changthang grazers, renowned for producing Pashmina wool, who are compelled to relinquish their livestock due to industrial expansion infringing upon their grazing lands.

The activist underscored the urgency of the situation, stating, “They are taking away our land because there are no safeguards available…” Wangchuk issued a warning that if the government impedes the march, it would lead to a ‘jail bharo andolan’ followed by a non-cooperation movement.

Accusing the BJP of reneging on promises made to the people of Ladakh, Wangchuk expressed disillusionment with the Union home ministry’s rejection of their demands on March 4. Despite assurances given by the government in the run-up to parliamentary polls, Wangchuk questioned the credibility of such promises, urging for concrete action towards granting statehood to Ladakh.

Prepared to undertake another hunger strike if necessary, Wangchuk reiterated the gravity of their cause, emphasizing that they are fighting for the future generations of Ladakh. Furthermore, he demanded transparency regarding the allocation and utilization of funds earmarked for Ladakh’s development.

Collaborating under the banner of the Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), various political, social, and religious entities have engaged in five rounds of discussions with the home ministry. Their collective objective is to secure statehood for Ladakh and its inclusion in the Sixth Schedule, mirroring provisions that govern tribal areas in other regions of India.