This Article is From Feb 03, 2023

"We Were Better Off In Jammu and Kashmir (State)": Activist's Ladakh Fight

Sonam Wangchuk has become a rallying point for the demand for statehood and special status for Ladakh

Sonam Wangchuk ended his five-day-long fast on Tuesday.


Sonam Wangchuk, Ladakh's top environmentalist and a well-known innovator, says Ladakh cannot remain under permanent Governor's rule. He also said that he feels unsafe and unshielded in the Union Territory status of Ladakh.

Mr Wangchuk, who ended his five-day-long fast on Tuesday, has become a rallying point for the demand for statehood and special status for Ladakh under the 6th schedule of the constitution.

"Now there is no article 370 like protection. So we demand there should be protection under the 6th schedule of article 244 for Ladakh," said Mr Wangchuk.

Speaking to NDTV, Mr Wangchuk said it took him time to understand the impact of turning Ladakh into a Union Territory after he welcomed the Central government's decision on August 5, 2019.

Mr Wangchuk had thanked the Prime Minister after the BJP government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and special status under article 370 and Ladakh was carved out as a separate union territory.

Now Mr Wangchuk says that he's compelled to confess that they were better off as part of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“It took time to underhand how it's impacting us after Ladakh was made a Union Territory. I feel unsafe and unshielded when there are no safeguards for the region” said Mr Wangchuk.

Ladakhi leaders say only the sixth schedule and statehood for Ladakh will address the growing alienation among people.

And when Mr Wangchuk ended his five days fast on Tuesday, thousands turned up in his support at Polo ground in Leh and protested for statehood and 6th schedule.

From celebrating union territory status in 2019, Ladakh has gone against the direct central rule. Mr Wangchuk says he can't remain silent when local people have no say in running governance and the region is facing an imminent threat to its culture, it's ecology and environment.

"I never wanted to say this, but I have to say that we were better off in Jammu and Kashmir” said Mr Wagnchuk during his protest.

Leaders of Buddhist-dominated Leh and Muslim-dominated Kargil have formed an alliance demanding statehood and special status. Last month the alliance refused to be part of the central government's high-powered committee headed by Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai over non-inclusion of 6th schedule and statehood in the agenda.

The BJP says it's a flip-flop by Ladakh leaders who were earlier demanding the Union Territory move.

"Although the government has formed a high-powered committee led by MoS Home to deal with the issues, let's see and hope that this flip flop in demands also ends” said RS Pathania, spokesman BJP.

Ladakhi leaders say resentment among people in Ladakh is only growing and talks with the Centre must be held on statehood and 6th schedule.

“Dialogue should not be for the sake of dialogue. It should be result oriented.. Resentment is deepening in Ladakh. We want government to list to people of Ladakh," says Sajad Hussain Kargili, leader of Kargil Democratic Alliance.

Over the last three years, several BJP leaders including BJPs Ladakh chief Cherang Dorjay resigned from the party as disillusionment deepened in the region.

Recently, Mr Dorjay told NDTV that the Centre has fooled them and given the present situation in Ladakh, they were better off in Jammu and Kashmir state.

At a time when the county is facing a Chinese challenge along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, simmering discontent among the people of Ladakh is becoming a major problem for the Centre.