Will march to LAC to show reality of Chinese occupation: Sonam Wangchuk

The climate activist said around 10,000 people from Ladakh will march to the China border to show how much Indian territory has been 'lost'

Sonam Wangchuk in Kargil, March 2023 (photo: @Wangchuk66/X)
Sonam Wangchuk in Kargil, March 2023 (photo: @Wangchuk66/X)

NH Digital

Engineer and innovator turned educationist and environmental activist Sonam Wangchuk on Tuesday said around 10,000 people from Ladakh will march to the border with China this month and next month to show how much Indian territory has been lost to the neighbouring country.

Wangchuk has been on a hunger strike, which he calls a 'climate fast', in sub-zero temperatures in Leh for the last 14 days, demanding Constitutional safeguards for Ladakh, among other things. Wangchuk observed a similar week-long fast in June last year, but this time, he has hinted that the struggle will be more protracted, and his fast could well become indefinite.

Speaking to media as well as through regular social media posts, Wangchuk has claimed that local shepherds say they are no longer allowed to go to places they had always taken their animals to earlier. Indeed, he says the shepherds are now stopped several kilometres from their traditional grazing grounds.

"We will go there and show whether the land has been lost or not," Wangchuk said. He has also said the proposed march, scheduled for 27 March and 7 April. will begin from the north and south banks of Pangong Tso lake, Demchok, Chushul and other areas on the line of actual control (LAC) with China.

Wangchuk said the march will also show those areas — prime pasture land — which are being converted into solar parks, with "people losing their land to corporates".

The climate activist said locals have already lost about 1,50,000 sq km of prime grazing land, and that encroaching from the north, the Chinese have captured large parts of land in the last few years. Some people have also allegedly told him that owing to the India-China border dispute, at least 26 of the total 65 patrolling points in eastern Ladakh are not being patrolled.

Members of the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), which represent Buddhist-majority and Shia Muslim-majority areas in Ladakh respectively, jointly voted for statehood for Ladakh, including Ladakh's inclusion in the sixth schedule of the Constitution. They are on strike demanding job reservations for locals, and one Parliamentary seat each for Leh and Kargil.

Protestors have repeatedly accused the BJP-led Central government of refusing to fulfil the demand of the sixth schedule. Wangchuk has also said the government is "refusing to keep its promise" on the sixth schedule. "Home minister Amit Shah said we cannot give you this, but we will give you some Constitutional protection. This is a breach of trust," Wangchuk said, adding that he will make the people of India aware of this.

The activist said "people are disappointed, frustrated and angry", and the BJP will "not get a single seat here" in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. "We are trying to awaken not just Ladakh but the entire country. If election promises are dishonoured like this, the elections will become a joke. Why did we vote this party to power twice?"

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