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Ladakh Protest: Sonam Wangchuk Ends Hunger Strike After 21 Days

wangchuk

Ladakhi innovator and activist Sonam Wangchuk concluded his 21-day “climate fast” on Tuesday, marking a significant moment in the ongoing struggle for Ladakh’s rights and recognition. Wangchuk, known for his commitment to environmental causes and indigenous tribal cultures, handed over the baton to other groups, ensuring that the momentum of the protest continues.

A Relay Fast for Demands

In a video message at the end of his fast, Wangchuk emphasized the importance of their collective efforts. He stated, “Today is an important day. The first phase has ended, but the hunger strike has not come to a close. After me, women will begin a 10-day fast tomorrow. This will be followed by youth and Buddhist monks. Then, it could be women again, or I might return. This cycle will go on. As many as 6,000 people, from all religions, joined me in a one-day fast.”

The relay fast aims to keep the pressure on authorities until the citizens’ groups feel their demands have been met. Wangchuk’s sacrifice has galvanized the community, and the baton now passes to others who share his vision for Ladakh’s future.

Demands and Challenges of Wangchuk

Tensions have simmered in the strategic region bordering China and Pakistan since Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir became separate Union Territories three years ago. Broken promises and unmet expectations have fueled restlessness among Ladakhis.

The demands put forth by civil society groups in Ladakh include:

  1. Statehood for Ladakh: The region seeks recognition as a full-fledged state.
  2. Inclusion in the Sixth Schedule: Ladakhis want constitutional safeguards similar to those provided by the Sixth Schedule, which protects tribal populations and allows for autonomous development councils.
  3. Job Reservation Policy: Locals demand job opportunities within the administration.
  4. Parliamentary Representation: A parliamentary seat each for the Leh and Kargil districts.

Wangchuk’s hunger strike was a powerful expression of these demands, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to safeguard Ladakh’s fragile ecosystems and unique indigenous tribal cultures. He called upon them to rise above mere politics and demonstrate statesmanship with character and foresight.

The Legacy Continues

As Wangchuk ends his fast, the relay continues. Women, youth, and monks take up the mantle, ensuring that Ladakh’s voice remains strong. The struggle for Ladakh’s rights is far from over, but Wangchuk’s unwavering commitment has ignited hope and determination in the hearts of thousands.

“END 21st Day OF MY #CLIMATEFAST,” Wangchuk tweeted. “I’ll be back… 7,000 people gathered today. It was the end of the 1st leg of my fast. Btw, 21 days was the longest fast Gandhi ji kept.”

Ladakh’s fight for recognition and justice persists, fueled by the spirit of unity and resilience. Sonam Wangchuk’s legacy lives on, inspiring generations to come.

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