Sonam Wangchuk announces ten days climate fast for 6th schedule
“Breaking people’s trust is unethical, a criminal offence; will sacrifice my life, but will not stop”
LEH: Days after the union territory successfully hosted over one hundred international delegates for the Y20 Pre-Summit, the renowned social reformist and educationist Sonam Wangchuk on Tuesday announced a ten-day-long Climate Fast to press for the demand of Ladakh’s inclusion into the sixth schedule of the constitution.
Wangchuk, who earlier in the month of January this year held a five-day long climate fast demanding the sixth schedule to protect fragile environment of Ladakh, its mountains, glaciers, land, people and culture, said that he will go on the second installment of his fast either by the end of this month or early next month.
Claiming that Ladakh’s Lieutenant Governor Brigadier B D Mishra ‘recently told him to not even think about the sixth schedule’, Wangchuk said he is compelled to go on the fast, to make New Delhi listen to the genuine demand of the people of Ladakh.
The 6th Schedule of the constitution essentially gives financial and social autonomy to certain regions. The Constitution requires that 50% of a region’s population should be tribal to be included into the sixth schedule. Wangchuk has been heading the protests demanding sixth schedule for Ladakh, which has around 95% of its population as tribals.
On Tuesday, without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party, Wangchuk said that the ruling party promised sixth schedule to the people of Ladakh but has now backtracked on its promise.
“Ladakh has been demanding sixth schedule to save its fragile climate, culture and glaciers. Sixth schedule was the first promise in the election manifesto of the ruling party. We elected them and did our part but then they backtracked on their promise,” said Wangchuk in a 14-minute long video message.
Wangchuk argued that sixth schedule does not restrict development in any way, but only enables the development in line with the unique conditions of a region and as per the aspirations of its people.
“By not fulfilling its promise, the ruling party would lose the trust of people, not just in Ladakh but in entire country who are watching with a keen eye such developments ahead of the 2024 general elections.
“Backtracking on the promises made to the people of Ladakh is raising questions on the ethics, integrity, intentions of the ruling party and even the spirit of democracy,” Wangchuk hit out at the BJP.
Wangchuk said that as a responsible society, ‘we need to remind the government of its unfulfilled promises’.
“And this is why, I will be going on a 10-day-long climate fast. The dates are not yet decided, but it will be by the end of May or early June,” he announced.
Wangchuk said that the climate fast was earlier planned for April 26, three months after the first fast, but he didn’t want an internal issue to grab attention when an international event (Y20 Pre-Summit) was being held in Ladakh.
Recalling the January climate fast, Wangchuk said that he hoped that the government would listen to the people of Ladakh.
“And they did ask us ‘what do you want from the sixth schedule’. But gradually, the things stalled. As the G20 (Y20 Pre-Summit) came to an end, Lieutenant Governor Brigadier B D Mishra told us that the sixth schedule was not a possibility,” he said.
“This backtracking is not acceptable to the people of Ladakh. This is not good for the leadership of the country and India’s image at the global level. The world is watching what is happening in Ladakh. What message would this give,” asked Wangchuk.
Wangchuk likened the sixth scheduled promise to a blank cheque which bounced.
“Before the elections, they gave us a blank cheque with sixth schedule written on it. They gave us the cheque and asked for our votes. We elected them, and when we went to encash the cheque, it bounced,” said Wangchuk.
“Bouncing of a cheque is a criminal offence, punishable in the court of law. We are patriotic people and we don’t want to go to the court. We still hope that whatever misunderstanding remains, is cleared soon,” he said.
“This fast is our right to raise our voice in the most vibrant democracy of the world, that India is. The Kargil Democratic Alliance and Leh Apex Body have already said that they would intensify the agitation, if the need arises. I want to assure you that we will fight for the sixth schedule, till the day I am alive,” he said.
The sixth schedule is a special provision provided under Article 244(2) and Article 275(1) of the Constitution, that provides for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to safeguard the rights of the tribal population in these states. This provision seeks to do so through the formation of Autonomous District Councils and Regional Councils, armed with certain legislative, judicial, executive and financial powers.
These councils can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation, village administration, inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, social customs and so on, but having no effect until assented by the Governor of the State. These councils can establish, construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, cattle ponds, fisheries, roads, road transport and waterways in the respective districts; to form courts to hear cases pertaining to members of Scheduled Tribes with maximum sentence less than 5 years; to levy taxes, fees and tolls on buildings, land, animals, vehicles, boats, entry of goods into the area, roads, ferries, bridges, employment and income and general taxes for the maintenance of schools and roads, and to grant licences or leases for the extraction of minerals within their jurisdiction.
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