Sonam Wangchuk’s Pashmina March: A Peaceful Protest Amidst Rising Tensions in Ladakh

Sonam Wangchuk

New Delhi: In a move that has garnered significant attention, climate activist Sonam Wangchuk has announced the “Pashmina March,” a peaceful protest set to take place along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Leh. Scheduled for Sunday, 7th April, the march aims to draw attention to the Chinese infiltration in the pastures of Ladakh and the resulting ecological impact on the region. Wangchuk’s initiative comes as a response to claims that China has occupied approximately 4000 square kilometers of land, affecting the traditional grazing grounds of local Pashmini shepherds.

In anticipation of the march, which is expected to see thousands of participants, the Ladakh administration has taken preemptive measures by imposing Section 144 in Leh. This order, effective from 6 pm on Saturday until 6 pm the following Sunday, encompasses a 10 km radius around Leh city and includes a reduction of internet services to 2G. Leh District Magistrate Santosh Sukhdev has also issued a ban on processions, rallies, public gatherings, and the use of vehicle-mounted loudspeakers without prior permission.

Wangchuk has expressed concerns over the administration’s actions, suggesting that they may be counterproductive and potentially escalate tensions. He has highlighted the peaceful nature of the planned march and criticized the administration for intimidating participants and pressuring them to sign bonds. The activist has also pointed out that despite a 31-day fast and no incidents of unrest, people are being warned of action for any breach of peace.

Sonam Wangchuk

The roots of the current situation can be traced back to the removal of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, which led to Jammu and Kashmir losing their full state status and being divided into two separate union territories. Since then, the residents of Leh-Kargil have felt politically disenfranchised and have been vocal in their demands for full statehood and constitutional protection. These protections, once afforded under Article 370, included the preservation of land, jobs, and a distinct identity. The Pashmina March is the latest in a series of protests aimed at highlighting these issues and seeking redressal.

As the march approaches, all eyes are on Ladakh, with the hope that the event will proceed peacefully and bring much-needed attention to the concerns of the local population.