Democracy ends at Lakhanpur, and it never reaches J&K ladakh

Sonam Wangchuk, an engineer-innovator is currently on a five day climate fast from 26 January in Ladakh. He earlier said that he would sit on a five-day Climate Fast at Khardungla pass which is 18,000 ft where the temperature is -40°C. He further updated that as roads to Khardungla is blocked due to heavy snowfall, he is on a fast from HIAL. However, he also later clarified he is under house arrest and the UT administration has restricted his fast to HAIL campus and is not allowed for Khardung La top citing threats to my life and so on.

Born in 1966, Sonam Wangchuk is a mechanical engineer and Director of the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL). He was a recipient of the Magsaysay Award in the year 2018. Wangchuk’s personality inspired the fictional character of Phunsukh Wangdu essayed by Aamir Khan in the 2009 film ‘3 idiots’. The Ladakh-based engineer is known for setting up his innovative school, the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), whose campus runs on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting, or heating.

He set up the SECMOL in 1988 with the aim of supporting Ladakhi children and youth and to train the students whom the system termed as failures. In 1994, Wangchuk launched Operation New Hope to bring reforms in the government schools’ system. He has also been instrumental in designing the low-cost solar heated buildings made of mud to maintain a formidable temperature in Ladakh winters. Ice Stupa has been yet another pioneering invention towards solving the water crisis facing mountain regions. In 2021, he also built an eco-friendly solar heated tent that Army personnel can use in extremely cold places like Siachen and Galwan valley in the Ladakh region. In November 2022, he was awarded the seventh Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios Award by former Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. The the award is given every alternate year in the memory of the first Metropolitan of Delhi Diocese and renowned philosopher Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios.

Why is he on a climate fast in Ladakh?

On 23 January, Wangchuk sent an SOS to PM Modi. He made an appeal to the prime minister to take action since “all is not well in Ladakh”.

From a military perspective, Ladakh is essential and played a role in the Kargil and other conflicts. Wangchuk expresses worry about the potential for corporate expansion in the union territory, which is anticipated to add to the already severe shortage of resources like water. Mining and other comparable activities may cause glaciers to melt.

In the video, he explained, “Ladakh, also known as the “third pole” of the earth, is dealing with serious issues as he mentions the 6th Schedule and protests related to it. To promote total economic development and decision-making autonomy, locals have been calling for the inclusion of Ladakh under the 6th Schedule. The topic has also previously been brought up in Parliament.”

The Constitution requires 50 percent of a region’s population to be tribal for the 6th Schedule to apply. Ladakh, with over 95% of its population as tribal, was expected to be added soon, it was believed, Wangchuk says in the clip. Arjun Munda, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, has also provided assurances, Wangchuk added.

The people of Ladakh are perplexed as to why the government that has listened to their 70-year-old demand for a union region is not paying attention to this demand, Wangchuk said in the 13-minute video.

In order to address issues like climate change, people need to adjust their lifestyles rather than contributing money to the globe, Wangchuk previously stated. In December, he utilised recent occurrences in the mountainous region of the north, such as flash floods, to demonstrate the effects of climate change and said that individuals in major cities throughout the world are to blame for these changes.

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