Ladakh’s top environmentalist Sonam Wangchuk today alleged that he has been detained by the Union Territory’s administration after his protest fast demanding special status for Leh. Authorities, however, denied any detention. Mr Wangchuk had yesterday said the administration wants to “silence him” for the protest against the destruction of the region’s ecology and unsustainable development.
The Union Territory administration said he wanted to protest in Khardung La, permission for which was denied.
The Ladakh administration wants Mr Wangchuk to sign a bond promising not to make any statements for a month over the recent happenings in Leh. He is not to participate in any public gatherings, for a month, over the recent developments in Leh, now bristling with protests demanding special status under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, the bond adds.
Mr Wangchuk, 56, began his five-day fast on Thursday at Phyang, Leh, where the night temperature is minus 20 degrees Celsius. He earlier alleged he was placed under house arrest.
He had also tweeted a copy of what he claimed was the bond that he has been asked to sign to ensure he wouldn’t make any statement or participate at public meetings for a month.
“I am under house arrest. In fact, quite worse than that. If you’re under house arrest, you know the rules clearly, and you may even explore legal ways to counter it. But right now I am being kept at our institute and my movement is restricted,” Mr Wangchuk, wrapped in a blanket amidst snow-capped mountains, told NDTV in a video statement.
He co-founded the Himalayan Institute of Alternative Ladakh, or HIAL, on whose grounds he has been fasting. Mr Wangchuk had planned his fast at Khardung La Pass, where the temperature could fall to minus 40 degree Celsius. He alleged the administration is trying to stop him from reaching Khardung La Pass.
Calling for preventive steps, he has said unsustainable industries, tourism, and commerce will continue to mushroom in Ladakh and finish the region eventually.
He has also asked the government to include the region in the 6th schedule of the Constitution, which allows administration of some tribal areas as autonomous entities.
Sonam Wangchuk’s life had inspired Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s character in the 2009 film 3 Idiots. He also received the Magsaysay Award in 2018.