Climate activist Sonam Wangchuk on Saturday withdrew his call for a protest march from Ladakh’s Leh to the Line of Actual Control planned for Sunday.

The march was meant to highlight the scale of the alleged Chinese intrusions in Ladakh and the land taken over by Indian corporates. Local tribal leaders were to lead the protest.

Ahead of the protest, the administration of the Union Territory had imposed prohibitory orders against gatherings under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the area.

Under these circumstances, “chances of violence are very high, which could then be used to label this peaceful movement anti-national”, Wangchuk said in a social media post on Saturday.

On March 26, Wangchuk ended his 21-day hunger strike that demanded statehood for Ladakh and the protection of the Himalayan ecology. Wangchuk and other civil society leaders in Ladakh are also trying to press the Union government to implement the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution for Ladakh.

The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 (Administration of Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas) of the Constitution guarantees certain protections for land and a nominal autonomy for citizens in designated tribal areas. In Ladakh, while more than 97% of the population belong to Scheduled Tribes, Kargil is a Muslim-majority region.

The march on Sunday to the Line of Actual Control was to “highlight the plight of the Changpa nomadic tribes who are losing thousands of square kilometres of their land due to Chinese incursion in the north and our own corporates in the south”, Wangchuk said on Saturday.

The Line of Actual Control is the de facto demarcation between Indian and Chinese-held territory in the region.

“This purpose seems already fulfilled even before the March began due to the suppression attempts and overreaction of the government with the imposition of section 144, curtailment of internet and restrictions on movement by turning Leh into a war-like zone with armed barricades on all roads leading to Leh city,” Wangchuk said.

In view of these developments, he added, “the whole nation now knows about the reality of our pasturelands at the borders”.

Wangchuk said that the fast that the people of Ladakh have been holding for the last 32 days will continue.

When the activist ended his fast on March 26, he had announced that the broader hunger strike would continue.

“After me, women will begin a 10-day fast tomorrow,” he had said in a social media post. “This will be followed by the youth taking up the fast and then the Buddhist monks. Then, it could be women or I could come back. This cycle will go on.”

Wangchuk had also urged voters to “use their ballot power very carefully this time”, referring to the Lok Sabha elections. The voting in the general elections in Ladakh will be held on May 20. Counting of votes will take place on June 4.

In March, 85 civil society groups issued a joint statement in support of the protests in Ladakh.

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