Sonam Wangchuk: ‘Didn’t think I’d say this, but we were better-off with Jammu and Kashmir than today’s UT’

Sonam Wangchuk: ‘Didn’t think I’d say this, but we were better-off with Jammu and Kashmir than today’s UT’

Completing 5-day climate fast under “house arrest”, real-life Phunsuk Wangdoo blames Ladakh’s L-G for threats and for “pushing peaceful youth towards militancy”.


Magsaysay Award winner Sonam Wangchuk, who on Monday completed a five-day fast to safeguards the “glaciers, mountains, land and people” of Ladakh by demanding the region’s inclusion under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, looks deflated. A one-time staunch admirer of PM Modi and strong advocate of the 2019 abrogation of Art 370 in the then Jammu and Kashmir state, the engineer and innovator-turned-climate activist today said that the administration in Ladakh is “trying hard to sow seeds of militancy in the peaceful region”.

Wangchuk, who completed his ‘climate fast’ at his institute — the Himalayan Institute of Alternative Ladakh — says seeing the current situation in Ladakh, he now thinks Ladakhis were better-off as part of the pre-2019 Jammu and Kashmir state.

“I have been asked to sign a bond… Three innocent teachers of my school have been taken to police station, so that they force me to sign the bond. These tactics are being employed by the L-G sahib. On this occasion, I would say that L-G sahib, you are working hard to sow the seeds of militancy in peaceful Ladakh. The way youth have been kept unemployed and are being oppressed, this can happen. But remember, we will not let this happen,” Wangchuk said in one of his video statements. “I didn’t think I would ever say this, but I am saying that we were better-off with Jammu and Kashmir than today’s UT [Union Territory]. I would also tell that our tomorrow’s UT would be better and golden.”

The founding Director of Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SEMCOL), Wangchuk began his fast on January 26, Republic Day. While he was originally scheduled to hold the fast in the open at Khardung La — where temperatures drop to -40°C — he wasn’t allowed, and eventually organised the fast at his institute, where night temperatures go as low as -20°C. On Monday, the last day of the fast, he organised a solar exhibition.

“Today is the fifth and last day of my climate fast, for the safeguard of mountains, glaciers, land and people of Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution,” Wangchuk said in a video statement on Twitter. “Since my climate fast has twin purposes — to draw the attention of Hon’ble Prime Minister towards Ladakh, and to draw the attention of people around India and world to live simpler, carbon neutral lives — I am putting up a solar exhibition here.”

Wangchuk, an engineer and innovator from Leh who is famous for introducing the ice stupas technique to create artificial glaciers in Ladakh, said the Leh administration has put him under house arrest, and are asking him to sign a bond for his release. The terms of the bond include that he will not comment, issue public statements, make speeches or hold/participate in any activity that is “related to Leh district at present times”.

He said when he asked the officials what would happen if he didn’t sign the bond, he was told that he could be detained. “I am happy. I will go to jail. A man who didn’t fear the -40°C at Khardung La will (not) fear your detention,” he said.

Wangchuk’s executive assistant Michelle Pavri said the activist will address a virtual press conference on Tuesday, where he will answer all questions related to the fast, and Ladakh.