Ladakh Leaders Call Off Planned Hunger Strike After Centre Sets Up Panel

The sub-committee will look into the demands for statehood and safeguarding the rights of Ladakh's majority tribal population.

Ladakh Leaders Call Off Planned Hunger Strike After Centre Sets Up Panel

Home Ministry officials held talks with representatives of two key groups on Monday. (File)

New Delhi:

Weeks after protests erupted in Ladakh over the demand for statehood and safeguarding the rights of its majority tribal population under the sixth schedule of the Constitution, an indefinite hunger strike scheduled to begin on Tuesday has been called off. The decision was taken after the Union government held a meeting with representatives of two key bodies representing the protesters on Monday and agreed to set up a joint sub-committee.

The high-powered committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) discussed the demands with leaders of the Leh Apex Body (LAB) and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA).

The hunger strike was announced by former BJP MP from Ladakh Thupstan Chhewang and education reformer and Magsaysay Award winner Sonam Wangchuk.

"It was decided that a joint sub-committee would be set up for carrying forward the exercise to look into the details of statehood for Ladakh, inclusion of Ladakh in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and the formation of the executive Public Service Commission for Ladakh," said  Mr Chhewang, who is 76 years old. 

"The meeting was positive. We informed the Centre about our points of view on these matters in a focused manner. We hope that some positive outcome will emerge out of this sub-committee," Sajjad Kargili told NDTV.

Mr Kargili said people of the Union Territory are hopeful that they will get some positive news before the Model Code of Conduct sets in. "Ladakh is very sensitive. Two minorities have been living there for years. We hope our demands for sixth schedule protection and statehood will be taken seriously by the government," he added.

The sub-committee is scheduled to meet on Saturday. "In view of this development, we have decided to drop our plan of going on a hunger strike from tomorrow," Asgar Ali Karbalai, Working President of Pradesh Congress Committee UT (Ladakh), said.

The Home Ministry's high-powered committee was formed in December last year to discuss ways to protect Ladakh's unique culture and language and to ensure protection of land and employment. It also looks at measures related to the empowerment of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils of Leh and Kargil.

The new sub-committee will include Thupstan Chhewang, Chering Dorjay Lakrook and Nawang Rigzin Jora, who will represent the LAB. The KDA will be represented by Qamar Ali Akhoon, Asgar Ali Karbalai and Sajjad Kargili.

"The names of the members of the sub-committee have been conveyed to Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Union Home Secretary," stated a joint release issued by the two groups.