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Ladakh: Protests to Intensify, KDA Calls Half-Day Strike Tomorrow in Solidarity with Wangchuk

The Magsaysay award winner and climate activist has been on hunger strike since March 6, demanding full statehood and constitutional safeguards for the region.
The Magsaysay award winner and climate activist has been on hunger strike since March 6, demanding full statehood and constitutional safeguards for the region.

Image Courtesy: Twitter/@Wangchuk66

New Delhi: As the hunger strike by social and climate activist and Magsaysay award winner Sonam Wanghcuk entered the 14th day demanding statehood and special status for Ladakh, the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) has called for a half-day strike in solidarity on Wednesday, March 20.

KDA said the struggle for full statehood for the Union territory of Ladakh  was set to intensify further after talks with the Home Ministry earlier this month failed to make any headway and there has been no outreach after Wangchuk’s hunger strike.

Wangchuk has been on hunger strike in the freezing cold since March 6. Around 250 people on relay hunger strike “slept hungry” -12 degrees Celsius to “remind the Indian government of their promises to safeguard Ladakh’s environment and tribal indigenous culture”, he said, according to The Tribune.

In a post on X, Wangchuk wrote: “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.”

According to Asgar Ali Karbalai, co-chairman of KDA, the ongoing agitation in Ladakh is not restricted to “one community or one district, as is being projected by some vested interests who want to pitch the people of Ladakh against each other.”

He also said that a meeting with its counterpart in Leh, Apex Body Leh, would be held soon to chalk out the future course of action.

Before Wangchuk began the hunger strike, Ladakh saw the biggest protest ever in the region, with thousands of people demanding implementation of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and full statehood.

Another huge protest march and shutdown in Leh was witnessed a few days later when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jammu & Kashmir for the first time after abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into two UTs.

On March 6, Wangchuk had announced the hunger strike in front of a huge crowd in Leh.

“I am Sonam Wangchuk reaching out to the people of the world from Indian Himalayas, a place called Leh, Ladakh, at 3,500 metres, 11,500 feet,” Wangchuk told the massive gathering in Leh, adding “Today on the sixth of March, I will be sitting on a fast unto death, which will happen in stages of 21 days each, extended as necessary. It is 21 days because this happens to be the longest fast that Mahatma Gandhi kept during the Independence movement of India. I want to follow the same peaceful path that Mahatma Gandhi followed, where we inflict pain on ourselves, not on anybody else,” he had said.

The KDA and Leh Apex Body were formed after 2019, when Article 370 was abrogated and J&K was bifurcated with Ladakh as a separate UT.

According to the official statement put out by the Centre after the March 4 meeting: A “High Powered Committee under the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs has been working actively with the representatives of ABL and KDA. A significant progress has been made. A sub-committee constituted by the HPC, is also actively engaged with the Ministry of Law and other experts. The second meeting of the said sub-committee was held today which was attended by the representatives of ABL and KDA. Senior officers of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of Legal Affairs and Legislative Department were also present. The meeting was held in a cordial manner and various issues pertaining to land, employment and constitutional safeguards progressed for the benefit of the people of Ladakh.”

However, Leh Apex Body co-chairman Chering Dorjey Lakruk said at a rally held earlier that: “The MHA wanted to implement some parts of the 6th Schedule indirectly, while we insisted on its direct implementation besides the restoration of Statehood,” as quoted by Kashmir Times.

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