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'Critical for cultural and ecological security': Ladakh women seek statehood, self-rule

By Our Representative

Six Ladakhi women from different organisations in the region, who concluded their 10 day fast, have told an online press conference that it is necessary to provide statehood to Ladakh, even as declaring the region under the 6th schedule, for “deepening democracy, preserving ecology, and for survival.” Feminists across India joined the media meet in solidarity with the Ladakh movement “for 6th schedule, statehood and justice.”
If declared a 6th schedule area, the Ladakhi people will get right to self-rule, with its tribal communities getting considerable autonomy, including powers to make laws and receive Central government funds for social and infrastructure development.
The meet, titled 'Ladakhi Women Speak!', was co-organised by Vikalp Sangam, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in the wake of “state apathy and attempt to clamp down the people’s movement after the announcement of a Pashmina March to the border by climate activist Sonam Wangchuk, who recently concluded a 21 day fast as part of the struggle”, said an NAPM note.
Talking to media, Kunzang Deachen from Local Futures, laying the background of the demand for 6th schedule, said it was “critical for the cultural and ecological security of the region”, dismissing “the efforts to label the peaceful people’s movement as politically motivated.” She added, “Ours is simply a demand for a place-based policy for this Himalayan belt”.
Aisha Malo, President, Anjuman-e-Moin-ul-Islam, said, “We were so pleased that, back in 2019, when the region was declared a Union Territory, it was declared that the region would be placed under the 6th schedule. But in the last five years we have learnt that without legislative power this is meaningless for us.”
Padma Ladol, a young artist and songwriter, sharply criticising the mainstream media for failing to give coverage to the Ladakhi movement and demands, said, instead, “It was busy showing the Ambani prewedding functions.”
Nasreen Maryam, President, Anjuman Imamia, said, “Whenever there have been tensions at the border we the women of Ladakh have supported the army and the soldiers. We have sacrificed our children for the security of the country, but now when we need the country we are not being heard.”
Yangchan Dolker from the Apex Body Youth Wing, claimed that though women have not been in the forefront in social media, at the protest site since day 1 they have outnumbered men. It is women who have served the fasters and protestors, she added.
Sumita Dhana, President, Christian Association Women's Wing, turning her camera, showed the mountains which are seeing lesser snow every year. “We need to safeguard our ecology not just for today but for our future generations and for us development does not mean mining. We want better job prospects for the young, but in the current system even programs like Agniveer offer no economic and social security and stability”, she asserted.
Speakers from the Himalayan states Manshi Asher (Himachal Pradesh), Malika Virdi (Uttarakhand), Jarjum Ete (Arunachal) and Abha Bhaiya (Himachal Pradesh) spoke the challenges facing the entire Himalayan region, which is slowly turning to a disaster zone, regrettingpeople’s movements’ warning of the impact of mindless development are not being heard.
Adivasi leader Soni Sori, human human rights activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader from Chhattisgarh, speaking on “repression and unbearable violence that the people, especially women, of Bastar and other Adivasi regions have seen over the last two decades”, said, people are “resisting the takeover of their forest lands.”
Tashi, a Buddhist, transgender and human rights activist from Telangana said, “Patriarchy is about control – be it over women or over resources, over all institutions and decision making. It is unfortunate that when we look at the Himalaya, its always the outsiders view, and we never see the people”.Madhuri of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh, added, “This is a struggle against imperial forces. We had not fought for freedom from British rule only to see such a day again.”
Mumbai-based advocate Lara Jesani spoke of the “failure of law and judiciary in addressing human rights and environmental violations and the importance of direct democracy.” Feminist and environmentalist Lalitha Ramdas added, “We need to vote wisely so we can have people in government who we can demand accountability from.”
Meera Sanghamitra of NAPM and Shrishtee Bajpai of Vikalp Sangam, moderating the meeting, reiterated that people's movements of resistance to greed-based development and alternatives which are sustainable and just, stand with the Ladakhi people in this struggle.

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