Ladakh-based educational reformer Sonam Wangchu | YouTube screengrab
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New Delhi: Sonam Wangchuk, engineer, innovator and the inspiration behind director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s popular Hindi film ‘3 Idiots’, from Ladakh, took to social media to promote the boycott of all products ‘Made in China’.

In a two-part series titled ‘China ko Jawaab’ (Answers to China) on YouTube, Wangchuk addressed the advantages of boycotting products manufactured in China as tensions between India and China continue along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. In the first video, which was uploaded Thursday and has garnered over 2 million views, he urged his viewers to “uninstall Chinese softwares in a week and hardwares in a year”.

In a followup video published Sunday, Wangchuk clarified that his intention was not to spread hatred but he was fundamentally against the “expansionist” attitude of the Chinese government.


Also read: China’s animosity record towards India reflects wolf warrior diplomacy: Taiwan representative


‘Attack on China’s GDP’

Fifty three-year-old Wangchuk, who inspired Aamir Khan’s character ‘Phunsuk Wangdu’ in the iconic 2009 movie, is best-known for coordinating a massive reform movement in education in Ladakh. He focused on a pragmatic approach to learning, moving away from rote-learning. His efforts led to a significant reduction in the rate of failure among school students in the union territory.

Wangchuk also has a significant following on YouTube with over 4,75,000 subscribers. His videos usually focus on his work with children as well as life in remote areas in Ladakh.

However, with the two videos on China, he has emerged as a leading proponent of the ‘Boycott Chinese products’ movement, which has been circulating on social media for the past few days.

In the first video, which is 8-minutes-and-55-seconds long, Wangchuk talks about how an increasing GDP is one of China’s biggest asset, and a boycott can significantly harm its prospects. “India’s wallet power will prove to be more helpful than bullet power,” he said in the video.

Wangchuk also claimed that Indians spend Rs 5.2 lakh crore on Chinese goods every year and the Chinese in turn use this money to make weapons that later harm Indian soldiers.

Apart from getting rid of mobile phones, laptops and other ‘Made in China’ goods, Wangchuk called for the need to uninstall Chinese apps like TikTok and ShareIt. He also strongly pushed for the Modi government’s ‘atman nirbhar’ (self-reliance) call.

‘China fears internal dissatisfaction’

In his second video of the series, which followed a Q&A format, Wangchuk answered questions from his viewers.

Aside from clarifying that he was not against Chinese people, he talked about the killings of Tibetan Buddhists, demolition of temples and the atrocities committed against Uyghur Muslims in China.

He also tackled the expansionist attitude of the Chinese government, claiming, “This just isn’t happening with India. China is doing the same thing in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam. This isn’t just about enmity towards other countries for China. It is attempting to solve its internal problems by doing this. China’s biggest fear is its own population and the rising internal dissatisfaction.”

Wangchuk compared the Chinese goods boycott call to the Swadeshi Movement of 1905, promoted by freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Furthermore, he suggested that the movement be citizen-driven — “Citizens have the option to rule out the products because customers are the king, and no-one will have the authority to ask any questions to the consumers.”


Also read: 5 ways the world can stare China down


Mechanical engineer-turned-teacher

Wangchuk gave up his career as a mechanical engineer and decided to teach kids for a living. He set up the Student’s Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) in 1988, which is located 12 km from Leh.

Wangchuk is also widely known for his invention of ‘Ice Stupas’. These are “tall towers or little mountains” of ice which aim to resolve the problem of water scarcity in the cold desert region of Ladakh.

Even though he inspired a movie that centred around prominent engineering colleges in India — the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), Wangchu himself never attended an IIT. He did his B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology in Srinagar in 1987.

Later, he also studied Earthen architecture at Craterre School of Architecture in Grenoble, France for around two years.

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