Fasting for Nature: Sonam Wangchuk’s Hunger Strike for Ladakh’s Future

Fasting for Nature: Sonam Wangchuk's Hunger Strike for Ladakh's Future

19 Days In, Activist Demands Nature Gets A Seat At The Policy Table

As his fast entered the 19th day, Ladakhi activist Sonam Wangchuk called for having “nature representatives” in Parliament in a feeble voice.

Drawing parallels between Delhi and the ecologically sensitive Ladakh, Wangchuk proposed “giving nature a voice” in the highest policymaking body of the country, saying that ecological concerns must be given a fair representation.

Wangchuk called for the implementation of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in Ladakh to grant indigenous tribes nominal autonomy.

Ladakh is a vast area (60,000 sq km) of wild nature, glaciers… all this is not represented in our Parliament for policymaking. How about having representation based on area and not just human population alone? —Sonam Wangchuk, Activist

Wangchuk said the idea of having “nature representatives” in Parliament might initially seem somewhat shocking. “The idea may shock you, but let me put it this way… in early 1900s, the idea of giving voting rights to women was shocking…. In 1920, the US brought in a law for women’s voting rights,” he said.

Similarly, Wangchuk said, in 1965 the US brought in a law to allow people of all colours to vote. “Today, it’s just unthinkable that a black person, because of his colour, would not be allowed to vote. So, we take the idea of inclusion to the next level and give nature a voice through nature representatives. Tomorrow, it might be unthinkable for us to think that nature was never represented in our Parliaments of the past,” he said.

He said representation in Parliament is “human-centric”. “For example, Delhi, with an area of 1,500 sq km, has seven MPs, and Ladakh, with 60,000 square km, has only one MP. Delhi has more than 2 crore people while Ladakh has only 3 lakh, but the UT is not just its people.”

“It’s a vast area of wild nature, glaciers that we depend on for our lives, and all this is not represented in our Parliament for policymaking. So, how about giving such representation based on the area and sensitivity of nature and not just human population alone?” he added.

He said places with fragile ecosystems like Ladakh need to be given more attention. “The Sixth Schedule is one provision in the Constitution that allows tribals autonomous councils, little assemblies to make laws for themselves and manage ecosystems as they deem fit for their future,” he said.

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