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Sonam Wangchuk Ends 21-Day Hunger Strike, Vows Continued Fight For Ladakh's Rights

Renowned activist Sonam Wangchuk concludes his 21-day hunger strike, surviving on salt and water, demanding statehood for Ladakh and protection of its ecology.

Sonam Wangchuk
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After a gruelling 21 days subsisting solely on salt and water, Sonam Wangchuk, renowned climate activist and education reformer, has brought his hunger strike to a close. His protest, aimed at securing statehood for Ladakh and preserving the fragile Himalayan ecology, concluded amidst a gathering of thousands across the Union Territory.

Wangchuk, whose life inspired the character Phsukh Wangdu in the film '3 Idiots', remained resolute in his demands as he broke his fast. "I will continue to fight for constitutional safeguards for Ladakh and people's political rights," he affirmed. The conclusion of his strike marked the beginning of a hunger strike by women's groups echoing the same demands.

Initiating his fast on March 6, Wangchuk had pledged to continue until March 27, asserting it could extend to death if necessary. Despite harsh conditions with temperatures plunging to -10 degrees Celsius, he was joined by 350 others in solidarity.

In a poignant video message prior to ending his fast, Wangchuk called upon the Union government, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to address Ladakh's concerns. "We are trying to remind and awaken their consciousness to safeguard the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayan mountains in Ladakh and the unique indigenous tribal cultures," he emphasised.

Ladakh, comprising Leh and Kargil districts, gained Union Territory status after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. Recent protests stemmed from demands by the Leh and Kargil leadership, uniting under the Apex Body of Leh and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, for statehood and protection of tribal rights under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Despite the formation of a high-level committee by the Centre, meetings with protest representatives yielded no breakthroughs. Earlier this month, Home Minister Amit Shah met with UT leaders but failed to assuage their demands, prompting Wangchuk's hunger strike.

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