All is Not well: Real-life Rancho’s hunger strike for Ladakh statehood enters 21st day

Hunger strike of Sonam Wangchuk, the 57-year engineer-turned-educator enters 21st day

By Anoushka Caroline Williams  Published on  25 March 2024 4:11 AM GMT
All is Not well: Real-life Rancho’s hunger strike for Ladakh  statehood enters 21st day

Hyderabad: Hunger strike of Sonam Wangchuk, the 57-year engineer-turned-educator who inspired Aamir Khan's reel-life character of Rancho aka Phunshok Wangdo in 3 Idiots, entered in 21st day.

Braving sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of 3,500 meters, the Ramon Magsaysay Award winner is demanding four things for Ladakh. First and foremost is the statehood and implementation of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The Sixth Schedule guarantees protection for land and a nominal autonomy for the country’s tribal areas. The activist is also sustainable development in the Himalayan region.

Supporters Stand Strong

Despite mounting concerns about his health, Wangchuk's supporters rally behind him as he reaffirms his commitment to continue the hunger strike for three more days, as originally planned. Over 2,000 individuals have converged at the protest site in Leh, demonstrating unwavering solidarity with Wangchuk's cause.

Demands for Autonomy and Protection

Wangchuk's demands encompass various aspects crucial to Ladakh's future. “I call for statehood and the implementation of the Sixth Schedule, which guarantees land protection and autonomy for tribal areas,” he said.

Additionally, Wangchuk highlights the imperative need for separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil, as well as enhanced job opportunities for locals.

Environmental Concerns

Central to Wangchuk's protest is the environmental degradation caused by unchecked industrialization. He accuses the government of overlooking the adverse impact of projects such as the 13-gigawatt project, which he claims has been implemented without adequate consultation with local communities.

A Call to Action

“This hunger strike serves as a rallying cry for the preservation of Ladakh's unique identity and ecological heritage” stated Wangchuk.

Despite calls to end the strike due to his declining health, Wangchuk remains determined, asserting that even after it concludes, residents will continue the protest until his health permits him to fast again.

As Ladakh transitions from being part of Jammu and Kashmir to a Union Territory without an assembly, Wangchuk's hunger strike amplifies the region's quest for greater representation and autonomy. With only one Lok Sabha constituency, Ladakh's aspirations for self-governance and environmental protection are at the forefront of Wangchuk's campaign.

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