Dr Sonam Dawa Lanpo

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The executive body of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) was dissolved last week after the demise of its Chief Executive Councillor, Dr Sonam Dawa Lanpo, due to cardiac arrest at his residence. The sudden death of Dr Lonpo created political uncertainty in the district.

As LAHDC went into mourning, the council would now be re-constituted within a month. The LAHDC governs the district politically and the CEC holds the rank of a Cabinet Minister. The 69-year-old Lonpo was unanimously elected the Chief Executive Councillor of LAHDC on November 3, 2015.

Prior to that, Dr Lonpo worked as the district president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for Leh and councillor from the Thiksay constituency. BJP wrested control over the powerful LAHDC for the first time in 2015 by winning 18 of the 26 constituencies. Dr Lonpo was a medical practitioner by profession; he is survived by his wife, daughter and son-in-law. The funeral prayers of Dr Lonpo will be held on February 6 as per the Buddhist rituals.

According to local sources, Dr Lonpo was found dead on his bed on Monday evening. Dr Lanpo reportedly failed to respond to his wife’s repeated phone calls, who later asked a neighbour to visit the house and enquire about her husband’s wellbeing. When the neighbour, who used to serve food to Dr Lanpo, during his wife’s absence, reached the house, he found him dead on the bed.

The state government, as a mark of respect to Dr Lonpo, declared state mourning for three days (January 30 to February 1). The government also announced a state wide holiday on January 31, something which has never been done in the past. The state has never observed a three-day state mourning when any Cabinet Minister died even in office.

The legislators in both the Houses paid tributes to the departed soul and observed silence as a mark of respect.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also expressed sorrow over Lonpo’s demise. On the call of Ladakh Buddhist Association, the business establishments of the region observed a bandh on Tuesday to mourn the sudden demise of Dr Lonpo. MLA Langate and independent lawmaker Er Rasheed questioned government’s logic to declare three-day statewide mourning over the demise of Dr Lonpo.

Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Rasheed said, has insulted state flag by taking an extra-constitutional step with the full blessings of New Delhi and replaced the state flag with its own flag. What was the fun to declare three-day state mourning and announcing state flag will fly half-mast for three days as a mark of respect to Dr Lonpo, questioned Rasheed?

LAHDC, Leh, was constituted in accordance with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995.  The council came into being with the holding of elections on August 28, 1995. The constitution of the Council heralds decentralization of planning process with the involvement of people at the grass root level.

 –Muhammad Raafi

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