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Sonam Wangchuk: The Steel Spirited One, Yet Ignored?

Sonam Wangchuk has been on a hunger strike since 6th of March, 2024
Indian Masterminds Stories

Life of real life Phungshuk Wangdu of ‘Three Idiots’ fame, Sonam Wangchuk is in danger. The climate activist and educationist has been on hunger strike in Ladakh for past 18 days in sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level. His non-violent and non-disruptive protest is for four simple demands, yet no one from the government has reached out to him. The media too is focussed on more sensational stories like Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest and Electoral Bonds.

The Major Demands and It’s Feasibility

Mr Wangchuk is demanding statehood for Ladakh which was promised by Union Home Minister Amit Shah while moving the bill abrogating Article 370 in the Parliament. He believes that needs of people of Ladakh can only be met through the complete statehood. He claims that the status of union territory has led to the deterioration of environment and ecosystem through industries over power.

Wangchuk also demands for two separate Lok Sabha seats for Leh and Kargil districts. He has also demanded creation of Public Service Commission in Ladakh to provide a streamlined administration for the area making it more stable and efficient.

Government & Media’s Apathy

The acceptance of Mr Wangchuk’s demands may need some deliberations but, in this case, mere dissent is being ignored by the Government. The negotiation table was offered to the violent farmers protest and even the farm bills were repealed. But a non-violent protest by Mr Wangchuk and his 250 supporters is overlooked by the Centre.

Is the Government creating another Potti Sreeramulu, the man who died after 56 days hunger strike for creation in Andhra Pradesh in 1952. The incident triggered violence and then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru was forced to declare new state of Andhra Pradesh three days after his death.

The Government should set an example. Instead of waiting for the violent or disruptive protests, it should reach out to the peaceful protesters like Wangchuk and try to find solutions.

Media which could have magnified Wangchuk’s protests, has been cold shouldering it. Would the government have adopted same apathetic attitude has these protests been taking place in a politically dynamic state like UP, Bihar, Delhi or Jammu and Kashmir. But clearly, Ladakh is no Punjab.

An Ignorant Opposition

The opposition’s job is to amplify important issues, ask relevant questions and keeps the Government under check for its actions. Remember, Indira Gandhi’s visit to Bihar’s Belchhi following a massacre in 1979, paved her way back to the power at the Centre. But Sonam Wangchuk’s hunger strike has failed to attract opposition’s attention as well.

The opposition is either ignorant or too busy in raking up mundane issues which don’t bother the public or the government. It is right now busy in ongoing Lok Sabha elections and doesn’t seem to bothering about an important issue like Ladakh

Mr Wangchuk’s demands of statehood to Ladakh and creation of another Lok Sabha seats might not be fulfilled immediately. The statehood needs to be approved by Lok Sabha which is not in existence right now and creation of a Lok Sabha seat needs approval of delimitation commission which would start working only after the election.

But, a distinguished person like Wangchuk whose innovations like ‘Ice Stupas’ creating artificial glaciers have solved water scarcity in parched Ladakh, deserves a hearing – a patient hearing – if not immediately negotiations. Hope, Mr Modi would be different from Nehru of 1952.


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