By Shivnarayan Rajpurohit

“There are industrial lobbies, mining lobbies that are putting pressure on the (Central) government. We (Ladakh) don’t mean much to them. We are just meek tribal people,” said Sonam Wangchuk, educator and climate activist, as to why the Narendra Modi government, despite its promises in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and 2020, has not included the Union territory of Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Tribal areas in four states under the schedule have greater autonomy in matters of tribal affairs, customs, land, allocation of resources, ecology etc.

On March 6, Wangchuk, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, began his fast unto death to remind the Centre of its promise. “It’s a long fast which will be in cycles of 21 days each. Twenty-one days because that’s the longest duration for which Mahatma Gandhi had fasted,” he said. 

Wangchuk believes that safeguards under the Sixth Schedule would protect the fragile ecology of Ladakh from rampant industrialisation and bring democracy to the Union territory, carved out of Jammu and Kashmir after its special status under Article 370 was revoked.

The Ladakhi activist also opened up about the failed talks with the Central government. He said the government’s offer of constitutional safeguards under Article 371 to Ladakh are not meant for the indigenous tribal population. In this interview, he also appealed to citizens in other parts of the country to hold a one-day symbolic fast in solidarity. 

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