Sonam Wangchuk Ends 21-Day Fast Over Ladakh Demands

'I'll Be Back': Sonam Wangchuk Ends 21-Day Fast Over Ladakh Demands

Mr Wangchuk had started the fast on March 6.


After surviving on salt and water for 21 days, noted climate activist and education reformer Sonam Wangchuk has ended his hunger strike to press for statehood for Ladakh and the protection of the fragile Himalayan ecology, but insisted this was only the end of phase one and that his fight will continue.

When he had begun his fast on March 6, the reformer – whose life had inspired the character of Phsukh Wangdu in the 2009 film ‘3 Idiots’ – had said he would continue it for 21 days and that it could be “extendable till death”.

In a post on X, Mr Wangchuk said 7,000 people had gathered when he ended his fast. “I’ll be back… 7,000 people gathered today. It was the end of the 1st leg of my fast. By the way, 21 days was the longest fast Gandhi ji kept,” he wrote.

A video accompanied the post, in which he said in Hindi, “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, Buddhist monks. Then, it could be women or I could come back. This cycle will go on. As many as 6,000 people, from all religions, joined me in a one-day fast.”

“I am hopeful that our voice will be amplified and reach the government. As many as 60,000 to 70,000 people have come here in the past few weeks and voted with their feet. I hope that our hunger strike will continue but I am more hopeful that the government will hear the voice of the people and fulfil its promises,” he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Wangchuk had urged the Union government to “show character” and meet the demands of the people of Ladakh. In a video posted on X, he had pointed to a frozen glass of water and said 350 people had joined him in the fast despite temperatures dropping to -10 degrees Celsius.

“We are trying to remind and awaken the consciousness of our Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and Home Minister Mr Amit Shah to safeguard the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayan mountains in Ladakh and the unique indigenous tribal cultures that thrive here,” the activist said in the video.

“We do not want to think of PM Modi and Amit Shah ji as just politicians, we would rather like to think of them as statesmen but, for that, they will have to show some character and farsightedness,” he added.

Sixth Schedule

Ladakh, which consists of the Leh and Kargil districts, became a separate Union Territory after Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was abrogated on August 5, 2019.

Massive protests and hunger strikes began taking place in the UT earlier this year after leaders of Buddhist-dominated Leh and Muslim-dominated Kargil joined hands under the banners of the Apex Body of Leh and the Kargil Democratic Alliance to demand statehood and the safeguarding of rights of its majority tribal population under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The Centre constituted a high-level committee to look into the demands but no breakthrough could be achieved after a series of meetings with representatives of the protesters. On March 4, leaders from the UT met Home Minister Amit Shah and said he had refused to accept the people’s demands. Mr Wangchuk began his fast in Leh two days later.

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