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Internet Curbs, Prohibitory Orders In Ladakh Ahead Of Sonam Wangchuk's March

The march, part of the statehood agitation, is meant to highlight “the ground realities in Ladakh”.

Srinagar:

Two days ahead of the planned border march announced by climate activist and education reformer Sonam Wangchuk to “highlight the ground realities in Ladakh”, including the alleged encroachment by China, the Union territory’s administration has issued prohibitory orders in Leh district and also announced that internet speeds will be reduced.

Thousands were expected to join the march, which is part of the agitation for statehood, to the Line of Actual Control on Sunday. The call for the ‘Pashmina March’, on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March, was given by Mr Wangchuk on March 27, a day after he had called off his 21-day hunger strike for statehood for Ladakh and the safeguarding of rights of its majority tribal population under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The innovator, who is spearheading the protests and is on a three-day fast again, hit out at the administration over alleged steps to scuttle the march and said the administration’s peace initiatives now sound “dangerous”.

‘Misuse Of Mobile Data’

The administration issued two separate orders on Friday. An order issued by the Additional Director General of Police, Ladakh, cited inputs from the police and intelligence agencies and said “there is every apprehension about misuse of mobile data and public WiFi facilities by anti-social elements and miscreants to incite and provoke general public through various means of social media”

The order said “it is absolutely necessary to reduce” mobile data services up to 2G, “thereby suspending the mobile data of 3G, 4G, 5G & Public Wi-fi facilities 5G temporarily”. It stated that the order would apply in Leh city and a radius of 10 km around it from 6 pm on Saturday to 6 pm on Sunday.

Another notice was issued by the District Magistrate of Leh, imposing prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

According to the order, restrictions are imposed on, among others, any procession, rally or march, public gatherings and the use of loudspeakers mounted on a vehicle without permission.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Wangchuk claimed that despite a peaceful march being planned, the administration was taking steps to intimidate people taking part in the agitation and pressure them to sign bonds. He also claimed that the administration was getting directions from New Delhi since Ladakh is a Union territory.

In a video posted on X, he said in Hindi, “Maybe the administration has been asked to maintain peace at any cost. Fasts have been on for 31 days and no incidents have happened. And yet, people are being taken to police stations and being given warnings of action if there is a breach of peace. I fear that this could actually lead to a breach of peace. I think there’s some misunderstanding, so I won’t say much right now.”

‘Will Go With Shepherds’

The activist had announced that thousands of people would join shepherds and march to the border area in the eastern region of the Union territory. He has claimed that over 4,000 square km of land has been grabbed by China.

“Like Mahatma Gandhi carried out the Dandi March, we are going for a march to Changthang. We will go with shepherds and they will show us up to what point our grazing land was and where it stands today” he had said.

Mr Wangchuk also asked the administration to keep prisons ready as a jail bharo andolan (movement for voluntarily courting arrest) would be launched after the march.

“If the need arises, we will be starting a non-cooperation movement in Ladakh in the coming weeks and months. The administration here will be paralysed,” he said.

Demands

Ladakh was carved out as a separate Union territory after the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir state was bifurcated and stripped of its statehood and special status under Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019.

Within a year, Ladakhis felt a political vacuum. Massive protests and hunger strikes began taking place earlier this year after leaders of Buddhist-dominated Leh and Muslim-dominated Kargil joined hands under the banners of the Apex Body of Leh and the Kargil Democratic Alliance to demand statehood for Ladakh and its inclusion in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution

While the Centre constituted a high-level committee to look into the demands of the people of Ladakh, a series of meetings with representatives of the protesters failed to find a resolution. On March 4, leaders from Ladakh met Home Minister Amit Shah and said he had refused to accept their demands. Mr Wangchuk began his 21-day fast in Leh two days later.



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