Bonds of this kind were also imposed on political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir after the reading down of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
Sonam Wangchuk, the Ladakhi Magsaysay Award recipient who is observing a five-day fast demanding the region’s inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, has been asked by the union territory’s administration to sign a bond promising that he will not make any statements or participate in any public gatherings over recent happenings in Leh for one month.
Wangchuk is observing a fast at a time when two major citizens’ bodies from Ladakh have refused to participate in proceedings of a high-level panel constituted by the BJP-led Union government to discuss job and land safeguards for the region. The bodies have said their demands of statehood for Ladakh and constitutional safeguards under the Sixth Schedule have not been included in the panel’s agenda.
The Sixth Schedule provides for the formation of autonomous administrative district councils in tribal areas that have some legislative, judicial and administrative autonomy. These councils can make rules and regulations governing land, forest, water, agriculture, health, sanitation, inheritance, marriage and divorce, mining and more.
Asked to sign bond: Wangchuk
Wanchuk, an engineer-turned-educational reformer and innovator, who has gone on a “climate fast” from January 26 at Phyang, Leh, has been asked by authorities to provide an undertaking promising that he will not make any statements/comments or participate in gatherings over recent happenings in Leh.
At Phyang, the venue of his fast, the night temperature is -20 degrees Celsius.
As per the bond document provided by the administration, these activities have the potential to endanger peace and tranquillity in the district. “That I undertake that I will not make any comment(s) or issue statements(s) or make public speech(s) hold or participate in any public assembly(s)/any activity related to recent events in Leh district, at the present times, since it has the potential of endangering the peace and tranquility and law and order in the district or any part thereof for a period of one month (sic),” reads the bond, shared by Wangchuk on his Twitter handle.
CALLING LAWYERS OF THE WORLD!!!
The #Ladakh UT administration wants me to sign this bond even when only fasts & prayers r happening
How right is it, should I silence myself!
I don’t mind arrest at all#ClimateFast #6thSchedule #LiFE #saveladakh@AmitShah @narendramodi pic.twitter.com/Lq0gZPOtOf
— Sonam Wangchuk (@Wangchuk66) January 28, 2023
The bond document further states that he shall not incite anti-government sloganeering/activity that will breach public peace and shall carry out his fast in the area in which he has been given permission. Any violation will attract legal action, it continues.
Talking to The Wire, Wangchuk said the administration has asked him to sign the bond to refrain from making comments on current happenings. “They came yesterday and today and asked me to sign the bond, but I told them that I will consult my lawyers first.” He also said that he will not sign the bond.
He termed the move as a “banana republic” tactic to silence voices. “My climate change fast is not an action of dissent. I am promoting a climate-friendly lifestyle and seeking safeguards for mountains and glaciers,” he said.
He said the administration has restricted his movement to prevent him from going to Khardung La pass, where he planned to observe his five-day climate fast. “They have not served me a warrant, but I am under de-facto house arrest. It is worse than house arrest,” he claimed.
The bond document has similar wordings to the undertakings which mainstream Kashmiri political leaders were asked to sign after the August 5, 2019 constitutional changes to secure their release.
The mainstream politicians in Kashmir were asked to give an undertaking that they will “not make any comment(s) or issue statement(s) or make public speech(s) hold or participate in public assembly(s) related to recent events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, at the present time, since it has the potential of endangering the peace and tranquility and law and order in the state or any part thereof for a period of one year.”
Before beginning his fast, Wangchuk had made a video appeal from Khardung La pass to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider safeguards for Ladakh’s mountains and its people under the Sixth Schedule.
Wangchuk further told The Wire that UT administration should respect peaceful calls on environmental issues and safeguards for Ladakhis, and refrain from using dictatorial tactics to silence voices.
“The government should fulfil the promises and commitments made to Ladakhis. The current Hill Council government had promised the Sixth Schedule to Ladakhis in its election manifesto,” he said.
Late on January 28, Wangchuk tweeted that January 30 would be the last day of his fast and urged others to join.
AAP BHI JUD SAKTE HAIN @ClimateFast
Bahuton ne poochha hai kaise!
30th Jan is the last day of my 5 day fast.
Join me for 1 day fast from your own places and share on social media for solidarity
Those with leadership qualities could organise at safe public places from 9 am to 6pm pic.twitter.com/GyIXBDIxW5
— Sonam Wangchuk (@Wangchuk66) January 28, 2023
After the BJP-led Union government unilaterally read down Article 370 and reorganised the erstwhile state of J&K into two union territories, the people in the two-district Ladakh region have been seeking constitutional safeguards provided to other tribal regions in India under the Sixth Schedule to protect their demography, jobs and land. Before August 5, 2019, these safeguards were available to the people of Ladakh, which was then part of J&K, under Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution.
Ladakhis are also now seeking statehood for the region bordering China and Pakistan.
The Leh Apex Body and Kargil Democratic Alliance, the umbrella political, social and religious groups in the Leh and Kargil districts, are spearheading the agitation over these demands.
Earlier this month, both groups decided against attending any meeting of a committee constituted by the Union home ministry under the chairmanship of Union minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai, saying their demands of statehood and Sixth Schedule were not in its agenda.
Who is Wangchuk?
Fifty-seven-year-old Wangchuk is an engineer, innovator and education reformist. He is the founding-director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, which was founded in 1988 by a group of students.
He was instrumental in the launch of operation New Hope in 1994, a collaboration of government, village communities and civil society to bring reforms in the government school system.
In 2018, he was conferred with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his efforts to develop educational reform programmes that focus on “creative, child-friendly, and activity-based” education in Ladakh.
In 2009, his life inspired Aamir Khan’s character in the film 3 Idiots.
Courtesy The Wire