‘All is not well in Ladakh’: Man who inspired ‘3 idiots’ is on 'climate fast' protest in -10°C; actor Prakash Raj lends support : The Tribune India

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‘All is not well in Ladakh’: Man who inspired ‘3 idiots’ is on 'climate fast' protest in -10°C; actor Prakash Raj lends support

Sonam Wangchuk is demanding statehood and inclusion of Ladakh in Constitution’s Sixth Schedule to protect Himalayan region’s fragile ecology and glaciers from industrialisation

‘All is not well in Ladakh’: Man who inspired ‘3 idiots’ is on 'climate fast' protest in -10°C; actor Prakash Raj lends support

Sonam Wangchuk, an Indian education reformer, looks on as he conducts a hunger strike demanding constitutional safeguards and statehood in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. Reuters

Tribune Web Desk

Vibha Sharma

Chandigarh, March 26

Amid his ongoing ‘climate fast’ entered its 21st day on Tuesday, engineer-turned education reformist’ Sonam Wangchuk “hoped” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah “will soon prove they are statesmen”.

“21st Day OF MY CLIMATEFAST…350 people slept in -10 °C…5000 people in the day here…But still not a word from the government. We need statesmen of integrity, farsightedness & wisdom in this country & not just shortsighted characterless politicians. And I very much hope that @narendramodi ji & @AmitShah ji will soon prove that they are statesmen...” he wrote on the social media while seeking support for his agitation to “save” the Himalayas and glaciers and the inclusion of Ladakh in the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule to ensures land protection and autonomy in the region.

“…I remind Amit Shah ji & Modi ji of the values they are supposed to represent,” he had written on Monday.

Who is Sonam Wangchuk?

Known for his innovative approaches in education and sustainable development in the region, Wangchuk has been carrying on his agitation under the open skies of the region where temperatures often plummet to sub-zero.

Amid allegations of his protest not getting “due” media attention, Wangchuk has been sending regular updates on the social media regarding health and the public response while underlining the vulnerability of the region to industrial exploitation under its current UT status.

A recipient of the Magsaysay Award, Wangchuk had inspired the character of Phunsukh Wangdu played by Aamir Khan in ‘3 idiots’. Earlier in January, he appealed to PM Modi to take action as “all is not well in Ladakh”.

Prakash Raj lends support 

The protest got a leg up on Tuesday when renowned actor from the South, Prakash Raj celebrated his birthday with Wangchuk to show solidarity with his ‘climate fast’.

Sharing a video on social media, Prakash Raj wrote, “It's my birthday today and I’m celebrating by showing solidarity with Sonam Wangcguk and the people of Ladakh who are fighting for us, our country, our environment and our future. Let’s stand by them.”

Wangchuk has been expressing concerns over corporate/industrial expansion in the union territory, which has the “potential to add to the already severe shortage of resources like water”.

Besides, mining and other activities can also damage glaciers, he says.


Accompanied by local residents, he is demanding statehood and inclusion of Ladakh in the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule to protect Himalayan region's fragile ecology and glaciers from industrialisation.

Wangchuk also says “I have not lost faith in this Nation and its leaders”.

On Monday, he also sent a message to PM Modi and HM Shah, reminding them to follow the ideals of Lord Ram and their promises made to the people of Ladakh.

“I saw in an interview where Amit Shah said that he wasn’t a Jain, he was a Hindu Vaishnav. There could be different definitions of a Hindu Vaishnav, but what I liked the most is this: ‘One who is a Vaishnav, knows the pain of others, does good to others, without letting pride enter his mind.”

“Secondly, Modi ji who is a devotee of Ram, built the Ram temple, but what are the values of Lord Ram? In Ramcharitmanas, Raghukul reet sada chali aaye, praan jaaye par vachan naa jaaye. Lord Ram was in exile for 14 years, just because he did not want to break his promise.

“I request Modi ji to follow these ideals and fulfil what he had promised to the people of Ladakh based on which he won the past two elections,” he was quoted as saying.

The Sixth Schedule

Wangchuk is demanding for statehood and the implementation of Sixth Schedule, which guarantees protections for land and a nominal autonomy for the country’s tribal areas, in Ladakh, currently a UT.

He is also seeking separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil districts, exclusive land and job rights and the establishment of a public service commission. Previously a part of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh has a Lok Sabha seat.

After the abolition of the special status in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre in 2019 granted UT status to Ladakh. While J&K is expected to get statehood following Assembly elections, Wangchuk’s concern is that Ladakh would be left as a UT under Centre’s supervision, as per reports. 

Along with losing prime pasture land to huge industrial plants, he has also been flagging “Chinese encroachment in north”. 

Expressing concerns over environmental damage caused by industrialisation, he has also criticised the Centre for imposing a 13-gigawatt project without consulting locals.

According to reports, the Centre has constituted a high-powered committee headed by Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai to address demands of the people of Ladakh and is said to have agreed to examine the implementation of the Sixth Schedule, providing constitutional safeguards and job reservations.

Representatives from the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), advocating for Buddhist and Shia Muslim-dominated regions, respectively, have met MHA officials pressing for statehood, incorporation into the Sixth Schedule, job reservations for local residents, and Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil, they add.

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