Ladakh: Sonam Wangchuk To Start Five-Day Climate Fast On Republic Day For Ladakh's Glaciers And Sixth Schedule

Ladakhi icon Sonam Wangchuk said the government initially gave indications that Ladakh will be brought under Sixth Schedule but nothing has happened so far. This had led to protests at times. He also made an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have a dialogue on the issues at the highest level.

Sonam Wangchuk will start a fast on Republic Day over Ladakh's climate concerns

Ladakhi icon Sonam Wangchuk will start a five-day fast on Republic Day over climate issues concerning Ladakh. Through the fast, he will seek constitutional safeguards to the glaciers in the ecologically-fragile Ladakh region from the Government of India.

This will be different kind of a fast. Wangchuk will hold it at Khardungla Pass at 18,000 ft in a temperature of —40*C.  

“I am going on hunger strike from January 26, Republic Day. The Republic Day is the day when India adopted her Constitution. I am not going to do this hunger strike at home. I will do it on the road and in the cold. I will not go for a hunger strike in Leh city but will do it at the heights of Khardungla,” says Wangchuk, a noted innovator and recipient of prestigious awards such as Ramon Magsaysay and Rolex Award.

In a video titled All is not well in Ladakh, Wangchuk further said, “Here temperature goes down to —40*C. I will do the hunger strike in the shades of these glaciers, expressing solidarity with them to give a message to the world. If I survive, I will meet you again.” 

In the 13-minute video from Khardungla, Wangchuk talks at length about the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India. He says Ladakh has over 95 per cent tribal population and people presumed after abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019 that the Government of India will give the Sixth Schedule to Ladakh.

“Initially, the government also gave indications that Ladakh will be brought under Sixth Schedule,” says Wangchuk, noting that as the Sixth Schedule was not given to Ladakh, people of the region started protests in 2019. 

He further says, “And when nothing came to fore, people of Ladakh went to Thupstan Chhewang, who is widely respected in Ladakh and asked him to lead the Ladakh to get constitutional safeguard.” 

Wangchuk says Thupstan Chhewang came up with Apex Body, a grouping of different political parties of Leh, and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) was formed in Kargil. Both of these political forums are demanding a Sixth Schedule for Ladakh. They have now included statehood for Ladakh in their demands.

Wangchuk says, “I myself voted for the BJP during the Hill Council polls as the party had promised Sixth Schedule but after polls nothing happened.” 

He says the people of Ladakh don’t want the Union territory to be opened for mining as China did in Tibet. 

“Ladakh has a huge shortage of water and if investors start coming from outside for mining and other things, these glaciers will not be able to tolerate it,” says Wangchuk. 

Besides climate, Ladakh is important strategically and people of Ladakh have fought with China and Pakistan in different wars since 1948, says Wangchuk.  

In the video, Wangchuk also appeals to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have dialogue with the people of Ladakh at the highest level.