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regular-article-logo Sunday, 19 May 2024

Sonam Wangchuk to hold border march against 'land theft' in Ladakh by China, corporates

Wangchuk has emerged as the face of the Ladakh movement for special status under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and statehood. On Tuesday, his fast entered the 14th day. He had pledged to fast in phases of 21 days each

Muzaffar Raina Srinagar Published 20.03.24, 05:41 AM
Sonam Wangchuk during his  fast in Leh

Sonam Wangchuk during his  fast in Leh Sourced by the Telegraph

Climate activist Sonam Wangchuk, who is on a 21-day fast in Leh, on Tuesday announced a border march of 10,000 Ladakhis to "expose" the extent of Chinese intrusions and takeover of land by Indian corporates, touching a raw nerve of the BJP ahead of the parliamentary polls.

Wangchuk has emerged as the face of the Ladakh movement for special status under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and statehood. On Tuesday, his fast entered the 14th day. He had pledged to fast in phases of 21 days each.

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The Ladakhi activist has raised a series of controversial issues that are considered challenges for the Narendra Modi government. He announced that the "border march" would take place on March 27, a day after he ends his fast, subject to his health condition. If he falls sick, he will start the march 10 days later.

Wangchuk said Ladakh was losing prime pastureland “left, right and centre” to Indian industrialists on one hand and the Chinese army on the other, necessitating protection of the “fragile land, culture and people” of the region.

“If we go to the Changthang plains on the border of Tibet or China, you will see how much land the nomadic tribes that are famous for producing pashmina fibre are losing. On one hand, they are losing land to Indian corporates who are going there to set up their plants, industry, may be mining in future. There is already a huge 13 gigawatt solar plant and they are losing roughly 1,50,000sqkm of prime pastureland to it,” he said.

“On the other hand, they are losing land to the Chinese army, which is encroaching from the north.... They have captured huge chunks of Indian land in the last few years. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said 4,056km of land has been lost in just a few years,” Wangchuk added.

The climate activist claimed the nomads have become jobless and they are selling goats or working as labourers to earn a living.

“We will travel to the border, showing you live footage with nomadic leaders leading us. Some 10,000 Ladakhi people will march to the borders and show you how much of pastureland has been taken,” Wangchuk said.

He said the nomadic leaders would show how far they used to go for grazing and where they had to stop now for “us to see the real picture of the scene”.

Wangchuk, however, feared security forces might stop them tens of kilometres from the border.

“This will be a proof in itself that there are a lot of things to be covered up. If there is nothing to hide and no land has been taken, they will let us go up to where our nomads used to go in the past. If they have things to cover up, they will stop us hundreds of kilometres away, maybe in Leh itself,” he said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, during his tour to Pangong lake close to the LAC in August, had said the Prime Minister’s claim that China has not occupied an inch of Indian territory had no takers in Ladakh.

The Ladakhi activist has attracted thousands of people to his fast over days.

On Sunday, Ladakh Scouts veteran Tsering Motup, 79, the recipient of the Ashoka Chakra, joined Wangchuk's fast.

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