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Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike

Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike: Demanding Constitutional Safeguards and Ecological Protection

The Land Of High Mountain PassesLadhak has always been the epitome of beauty in India. Sadly, because of Article 370, it has faced major conflicts since 2019. The reason Why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike is going on is directly connected to the implementation of the particular law, which caused an environmental impact on the region.

Earlier in 2019, India abolished Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This made Aksai Chin a union territory, influencing China to protest. Aksai Chin is a territory in Ladakh, where both India and China claim ownership. Since then, there have been multiple clashes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

As of March 2024, uncertainties steamed in the region after the third round of talks cracked. A Union home ministry committee refused to concede to the demands of constitutional safeguards for Ladakh.

Let us see in detail why it is happening, who Sonam Wangchuk is, and what role he is playing with his hunger strike. 

Why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike Begin?

BEGINNING OF DAY 14 OF MY #CLIMATEFAST 250 people slept hungy in – 12 °C

Sonam Wangchuk is a determined environmental reformist who is fasting to raise awareness about the region’s climate crises. Given that, this is Why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike began:-

His “Climate Fast” started on 06 March and has now entered the second week. He has pledged to complete a 21-day (3-week) fast to address the climate crises and environmental changes caused by the melting of Ladakhi Glaciers. 

Sonam’s major focus is the region’s cold desert, which is on the verge of shifting from statehood. Through fasting, the reformist is asking the Centre to implement the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in the region.

He is currently surviving on salt and water and has successfully completed the two weeks of his fasting duration. The current situation seems like he will complete his fasting and achieve a successive reform of his intentions.

In the past, he has performed as an activist and rendered massive success on each project. On Tuesday, Sonam Wangchuk informed that he is planning a border march along with other agitators. Their aim is to highlight the “ground reality” to the outside world. 

He said, “Our nomads are losing prime pasture land to huge Indian industrial plants to the south & Chinese encroachment to the north. To show the ground reality, we’re planning a Border March of 10,000 Ladakhi shepherds & farmers soon.” 

Who Is Behind The Protest?

A mechanical engineer by profession–Sonam Wangchuk has become a renowned environmentalist. He says, “Ladhak glaciers are not just the concern of Ladakhi people alone.” 

Sonam Wangchuk was born on 1 September, 1966. He is an Indian engineer, innovator and education reformist. He is a proponent figure of the “Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL).” His nature and straightforwardness allowed him to fight for his region for all these years.

In 1988, he saved a group of students who had been the victims of the alien education system imposed on Ladakh. Not only this, but he designed the SECMOL campus. It was created in such a way that abolished the use of any sort of fossil fuels for energy and was primarily based on conservative modes such as Solar power. 

Sonam Wangchuk invented the Ice Stupa technique. It had the ability to create artificial glaciers to store winter water in the form of a cone-shaped ice bank. 

What Are The Ladakhi Peoples’ Demands?

Ladakh Shut Down: Massive Protests in Leh Demand Ladakh Statehood & Constitutional Reforms

Sonam Wangchuk is determined to agree with the state government to take legal action against the environmental hazards the region is facing. By protesting, he is bringing attention to the state’s liveliness and the implementation of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in the region.

The Sixth Schedule is a constitutional right that guarantees protection for land (land reform) and some sovereignty to the state’s tribal areas. That is why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike began. 

In 2019, as part of Article 370 of Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K), the Supreme Court gave a Union Territory (UT) status to Ladakh.

On the virtue of that, Wangchuk is seeking a separate elective body for Ladakh. He requests the government to execute the following:-

  • Independent Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil districts
  • A recruitment process
  • A separate Public Service Commission for Ladakh

He explains that Ladakh is facing industrial exploitation and vulnerability, which can disrupt the Himalayan ecosystem. That is Why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike began. The main reason for his allegation is the “tag” of Union Territory (UT), which has made the state fragile to the backbone.

What Is The Sixth Schedule?

The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution establishes Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. The ADCs are intended to protect and maintain tribal culture. The Sixth Schedule is why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk started her Hunger Strike. 

The Sixth Schedule includes provisions for the composition of autonomous district councils.

What are District Councils?

Each autonomous district has a District Council with around 30 members. The Governor nominates up to four members, and adult franchisees elect the rest.

What are the District Council’s Responsibilities?

The council has various responsibilities for the administration of the district, except for areas under the authority of Regional Councils.

What are the District Council’s Powers?

All District Councils can make laws on various subjects, including the allotment of land, use of watercourses, and inheritance of property. 

What Are The Environmental Concerns Facing Ladakh?

Currently, Ladakh is facing a number of environmental concerns. Given that, here are some concerns about Why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike even started. 

Vehicular/Automobile pollution

The increasing number of motor vehicles and tourists has contributed to the region’s pollution.

Climate change

Glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, causing the region to become stressed out on the water. For example, the Pangong region’s glaciers retreated 6.7% between 1990 and 2019.

Water hygiene

With the growing tourism industry in the state, people are shedding traditional water hygiene practices, and more water is consumed during the tourist season.

Pollution

Plastic waste, which pollutes land, air, and water, is increasing at a very high rate in the state. The major causes are the unconcerned central government and regular tourist activities.

Faulty sewage systems

The state has a faulty sewage system which mixes the contaminated water with groundwater and spring water used by the local communities. 

Center’s Response To Sonam Wangchuk’s Protest?

Sonam’s expectations from the Center have been crushed after the governance body declined to fulfil its promises after a four-year delay. Now, you know Why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike began. 

He says, “After four years of dilly-dallying tactics, the Centre, finally on March 4, straightaway declined to fulfil the promises. This is a total breach of trust and faith in leaders, governments and elections, and if this continues, it will set a very bad precedent for all elections and governments to come.” 

He further added, “We hear that Prime Minister Modi is an aspirant for the Nobel Peace Prize. Well, I know the Nobel Foundation because I have given lectures there at investiture ceremonies, and trust (me) integrity of character is one of the minimum values they expect. The other simple appeal the people of Ladakh are making from the government is to restore basic democracy.

Seeing his determination and patriotism towards his nation and state, we can for sure conclude him as a freedom fighter, following the footprints of Gandhi. His fasting act has concerned his followers very much, and most of them are worried about his health.

Will Sonam Wangchuk Die?

Wangchuk has recently posted a tweet on X (previously Twitter) informing the citizens about his current health. Given that, here is what he said:-

END OF DAY 14 OF #CLIMATEFAST

Many of you have been asking about my health. Well I’m more than alive & …  just a bit less than kicking.  And my claim is backed by proof now. Today the Physician paid a visit and after test found this:

BP: 120/70

Pulse: 72

Blood oxygen: 94%

Sugar: 75

Ketone: 3+

Sugar is of course low because not a grain of food has gone inside for 14 days. 

But the higher ketone count explains how the body has switched to fats.

So please do not worry about me🙏

#SAVELADAKH #SaveHimalayas #SaveGlaciers #6thSchedule

Sonam claimed that his health was fine, but it turns out that his body had started shifting to stored fat molecules for survival. He said that his blood sugar level is low because not a single grain has gone inside his body. 

He asked everyone not to worry about him since he is fine and “just less than kicking.” With the help of the centre, he will continue with his fasting journey and fulfil his demands (which represent the whole state). 

The locals support him in reminding the Indian government about their duties against the Union Territory. Given that, here is a picture of the current situation of the protest:-

Why People From Kargil Join The Protests?

Sonam has completed 14 days or a full two weeks of fasting. On the 13th day, he informed about the locals who had joined him on this journey. Given that, this is what he said:-

BEGINNING OF DAY 13 OF MY #CLIMATEFAST

250 people slept hungy in – 12 °C to remind the Indian Government of their promises to safegurad Ladakh’s environment and tribal indigenous culture. 

First of all many heartfelt thanks to all who participated in yesterday’s protests in different cities. Updates are still pouring in & we’ll share this evening.

This Government likes to call India the ‘Mother of Democracy’. But if India denies democratic rights to people of Ladakh & continues to keep it under bureaucrats controlled from New Delhi then it could only be called a Stepmother of Democracy as far as Ladakh is concerned.”

People from Kargil joined the protest as they observed the shutdown and decided to come out in support of Sonam. With so many people, the protest is growing bigger and more intense. More people have joined, and an even greater output can be achieved. 

Seeing why Ladakh Climate Activist Sonam Wangchuk’s hunger strike began, reporters and even more environmentalists joined the protest. 

Ladakh Protest: Sonam Wangchuk Ends 21 Days Fasting on 26 March

After fasting for a whole 21 days, Sonam Wangchuk finally completes his protest. He says, “Fasting was a means to remind and awaken the conscience of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to safeguard the fragile ecosystems of the Himalayan mountains of Ladakh and the unique indigenous tribal cultures that thrive here.”

The climate activist passes down the “Fasting Baton” to other reformists for a relay fast. The fast is intended to last until the Center fulfils citizens’ demands. 

Wangchuk posted a video message with the following caption on Twitter:-

END 21st Day OF MY #CLIMATEFAST

I’ll be back… 

7000 people gathered today.

It was the end of the 1st leg of my fast. Btw 21 days was the longest fast Gandhi ji kept. 

From tomorrow  women’s groups of Ladakh will take it forward with a 10 Days fast, then the youth, then the monks from monasteries… then me again n so on. The journey has only started.

But we still hope n trust we won’t have to do all this.  Sooner rather than later a sense of responsible leadership will arise in 

@narendramodi  

@AmitShah

#SaveLadakh #SupportSonamWangchuk

 #SaveHimalayas #SaveGlaciers #6thSchedule

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David Gillmore

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