Feminists Across India lend solidarity with the Ladakh Movement for 6th schedule, statehood and justice !

Six Ladakhi women from different organisations in the region who concluded their 10 day fast as part of the ongoing struggle for statehood and 6th schedule for Ladakh addressed an online press conference and feminist solidarity meet on 6th April. The meeting, titled ‘Ladakhi Women Speak!’, was co-organised by Vikalp Sangam, PUCL and NAPM in the wake of the state apathy and now an 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.

Kunzang Deachen from Local Futures, laying the background of the demand for 6th schedule as critical for the cultural and ecological security of the region, also dismissed the efforts to label the peaceful people’s movement as ‘politically motivated’. ‘Ours is simply a demand for a place based policy for this Himalayan belt’, she added. Aisha Malo, President, Anjuman-e-Moin-ul-Islam, who was on the 10 day fast said, ‘We were so pleased back in 2019 when the region was declared a Union territory, a long standing demand of the people of Ladakh. 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 offered a sharp critique of the mainstream media for failing to give coverage to the Ladakhi movement and demands, while 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 emphasised that though women have not been in the forefront in social media but at the protest site since day 1, women have outnumbered men. It is women who have served the fasters and protestors. 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’, added Dhana.

Feminists from across the country in one voice expressed solidarity with the women of Ladakh and their struggle for democracy and decentralisation of power while decrying the extractive development model that is jeopardising life and livelihoods in regions like Ladakh.

Speakers from the Himalayan states Manshi Asher (Himachal Pradesh), Malika Virdi (Uttarakhand), Jarjum Ete (Arunachal) and Abha Bhaiya (Himachal Pradesh) pointed to the challenges facing the entire Himalayan region, which is slowly turning to a disaster zone and the various people’s movements that have warned of the impacts of mindless development.

Adivasi leader Soni Sori, spoke on repression and unbearable violence that the people, especially women, of Bastar and other Adivasi regions have seen over the last two decades as they resist the takeover of their forest lands. Tashi, a Buddhist, transgender & 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 Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh said, ‘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 stressed that 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.

Feminist Solidarity Speakers included:

1.    Adv Lara Jesani, PUCL Mumbai

2.    Manshi Asher, People for Himalaya Campaign

3.    Tashi, a Buddhist, transgender & human rights activist, Telangana

4.    Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice Peace.

5.    Malika Virdi, Uttarakhand Mahila Manch.

6.    Angela Rangad Socio-Political Activist, Meghalaya

7.    Lalita Ramdas, Feminist, Environmental Activist

8.    Jarjum Ete, Socio-Political Activist, Arunachal Pradesh

9.    Madhuri, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh

10.                  Soni Sori, Adivasi & Human Rights Defender, Chhattisgarh

11.                  Amita Buch, Activist & Journalist, Gujarat

12.                  Adv Albertina Almeida, Feminist lawyer, human rights activist

13.                  Kavita Sarivastava, PUCL

14.                  Abha Bhaiya, Feminist, Himachal Pradesh

15.                  Dr. Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, ALIFA-NAPM

The session was co-moderated by: Kunzang Deachen (Local Co-ordinator – Local Futures Ladakh), Shrishtee Bajpai (Vikalp Sangam) and Meera Sanghamitra (ALIFA-NAPM)

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