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Friday, April 19, 2024

‘Sonam Wangchuk Alleges Ladakh Leaders of Plotting to Enable Exploitation of Natural Resources’

India'Sonam Wangchuk Alleges Ladakh Leaders of Plotting to Enable Exploitation of Natural Resources'

Renowned environmentalist and Magsaysay Award winner, Sonam Wangchuk, a key advocate for Ladakh’s special status, has accused elected representatives in the Union Territory of collaborating with top industrial lobbies to exploit the region’s natural resources. Speaking before a thousand-strong crowd at a meeting in Leh, Wangchuk did not name specific individuals but criticized the local elected leadership for corruption and betrayal.

The crowd, echoing Wangchuk’s sentiments, expressed their disapproval with cries of “shame.” Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, affiliated with the BJP, which oversees the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council, was not specifically mentioned in Wangchuk’s allegations.

The accusations were made during a meeting advocating for statehood and special status for Ladakh under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Ladakh’s Kargil district observed a complete shutdown, while thousands rallied in Leh in response to a joint call from local Buddhist and Muslim organizations supporting the statehood and special status demands. The two religious communities united to seek land and job reservations for Ladakhis, expressing concerns about being overwhelmed by non-local residents.

Namgyal responded to Wangchuk’s allegations, stating that everyone has the right to criticize, and if there are specific allegations, they should be presented.

Wangchuk claimed that around 30,000 men and women out of Ladakh’s population participated in Saturday’s protests. He highlighted the initial support from central government leaders for special status after Ladakh’s separation from Jammu and Kashmir in 2019. However, he expressed disappointment with the subsequent silence, leading Ladakhis to question the government’s intentions.

Wangchuk suggested that industry lobbies, supported by local representatives, were hindering the grant of special status to protect their ability to exploit the region’s resources. He criticized these lobbies for prioritizing immediate gains over the long-term well-being of the Himalayan region.

He accused elected leaders of succumbing to industry influence, putting Ladakh up for sale, and discouraging support for the demand for the Sixth Schedule. Wangchuk emphasized the importance of Ladakh obtaining the Sixth Schedule to prevent arbitrary actions and resource exploitation by industries.

Saturday’s protests followed the central government’s announcement of a second round of talks between its representatives, led by junior home minister Nityanand Rai, and Ladakhi representatives scheduled for February 19. The talks aim to address the demands of Ladakh’s twin districts of Kargil and Leh, initially set up by a committee in January last year and reconstituted in November after accusations of making no progress. The first round of talks with the reconstituted committee occurred in December.

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