Ladakh leader stage protest over statehood

Sonam Wangchuk, an engineer-innovator from Ladakh, claimed that he is under house arrest. Notably, Wangchuk is currently on a five-day ‘climate fast. He started fasting on January 26. He appealed to Prime Minister Modi to intervene and safeguard the fragile ecosystems of Ladakh.

The educationalist claimed that he has been put under house arrest by the Ladakh administration at the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HAIL). Notably, Wangchuk is fasting from the HAIL campus. He previously stated that he would sit on a five-day Climate Fast at the 18,000-foot-high Khardungla pass. Notably, the temperature at Khardungla Pass generally dips to -40 degree-Celsius in winter.

Wangchuk, while speaking to Mirro Now said that the UT administration has restricted his fast to the HAIL campus and that he is not permitted to climb Khardung La, citing threats to his life.

Wangchuk told Mirror Now that Ladakh has around 95 percent of the tribal population. He requested the Central government to declare it as a Scheduled area. Later in the day, the Ladakh-based engineer also alleged that the Ladakh administration wanted him to sign a bond fro not participating in any kind of protest.

In August 2019, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two UTs —one comprising the Jammu and Kashmir region and the other comprising Ladakh. The Ladakhis are now protesting their status as a UT and are demanding statehood. 

Members of Leh Apex Body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance, an amalgam of different political groups of Ladakh and Kargil, on Sunday lodged protest in Jammu. Besides statehood for Ladakh, they also sought safeguards under the Sixth Schedule of Constitution of India and other guarantees to safeguard land and jobs for locals in Ladakh.

“For past three years, the UT administration and the Union Home Ministry have been playing with the future of our youth,” said Asgar Ali Karbalai, Co-Chairman of Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), while addressing protesters. The KDA is an amalgam of different political parties of Kargil.

Karbalai said they would be holding another protest in Delhi to convey to the “blind, deaf, and dumb” government the concerns of Ladakhis. 

“We are from the mountains. We are people who have fought for the country since 1948 and secured our borders. Let the government hear it. We will not retreat,” said Karbalai.

Karbalai said Ladakhis are united on these issues and the government cannot pitch Kargil against Leh or Buddhists against Muslims. The Ladakh UT comprises two districts of Leh and Ladakh and the population is mainly Muslims and Buddhists. 

“We are ready to participate in the talks but not on their terms,” said Karbalai.

Amid anti-bureaucracy slogans, Chering Dorjay, leader of the Apex Body of Leh and senior Vice President of Ladakh Buddhist Association, said they are protesting over four demands:

  • Statehood for Ladakh
  • Constitutional safeguards under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India to protect the interest of the tribal people of Ladakh
  • Formation of Public Service Commission and reservation of jobs for youth of Ladakh
  • Creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil

Former J&K Tourism Minister Rigzin Jora said the Ladakhis have bee fooled in the name of UT.

“In the name of the UT, we have been fooled. We were promised that Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils will be empowered. Instead, they have been rendered powerless,” said Jora, who is also a leader of Apex Body Leh. 

Source- Outlook