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Leh Apex Body To Begin March On April 17 To Meet Shepherds Losing Pasture Land: Wangchuk

Sonam Wangchuk said that the marchers, numbering around 20, would move forward to Changthang near the China border only if there is no objection from the government.

PTI
Photo: PTI
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The Leh Apex Body (LAB) will start a five-day foot march to Skang Chu-Thang near the Himachal Pradesh border on April 17 to meet the shepherds who are reportedly losing their pasture land to major industrial projects, climate activist Sonam Wangchuk said on Sunday.

However, he said the marchers, numbering around 20, would move forward to Changthang near the China border only if there is no objection from the government.

The LAB, along with the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), is spearheading an agitation for the past four years to demand statehood for Ladakh and its inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Wangchuk expressed his annoyance over "some people in Delhi" dubbing them as "anti-nationals or Chinese and CIA agents" and said the only purpose of the march is to "take the pain of the people" of Ladakh to the government which needs to fulfil its promises.

The LAB had earlier called for the border (Pashmina) march on April 7 to highlight the plight of farmers who are allegedly losing prime pasture land to huge industrial plants to the south and "Chinese encroachments" to the north. However, the call for the march was withdrawn after authorities imposed prohibitory orders and curtailed the speed of the internet to 2G.

"Ladakh is a very sensitive place surrounded by borders and we can understand that our announcement of 10,000 people moving to the border might have caused concern to the government over disturbance of peace," Wagchuk said.

"If that was the concern, we respect it and have decided to go by foot instead of vehicles in a small batch up to the Himachal border within Ladakh to meet the shepherds who we are hearing have lost a vast chunk of their pastures to industrialists," he said and and paid rich tributes to B R Ambedkar for giving such a constitution to the country which gives rights to every section of the society and also the freedom of speech.

He said the march will start on April 17 coinciding with Ram Navami and there should be no objection to the march as it is happening within the Indian territory.

"If the (Central) government and (Ladakh) administration have no objection, we would like to extend the march to Changthang (near China border) as we are told that our shepherds there have lost their pasture land due to (Chinese) incursions," the activist said, adding that they will seek permission from the authorities concerned to avoid any unnecessary reaction.

He expressed hope that the government will allow them to visit Changthang and said "it is a golden opportunity for them as well to show the reality to the outside world. They are saying that not an inch of our land was taken away (by China), so they should facilitate our visit otherwise doubts will be created in the minds of the people about their statements."

Wangchuk said some people in Delhi are thinking that the protesters are creating some sort of problems for the country.

"We are not doing it against anyone. We are doing it in support of our people who are being driven out of their pastures. If our sincere endeavour in support of our constitutional rights is labelled treason, it will only generate alienation which will be unfortunate. We have always stood with our forces to safeguard our country… Someone's shortsightedness will not be allowed to create a wedge between the people of Ladakh and the country," he said.

For the last 39 days, people in Ladakh have been on a chain hunger strike in a peaceful manner to remind the government of its promises, he said.

"Reminding promises is no treason or anti-national act. We want our rights enshrined in the constitution which is the guiding light for the country," the activist added.

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