Army out in Jammu region as protesters defy curfew (Lead)

July 2nd, 2008 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 2 (IANS) The army was deployed in Samba town of the Jammu region Wednesday as violent protests against cancellation of land allotment to the Amarnath shrine management continued, with mobs defying curfew. The army personnel staged a flag march in Samba town, about 40 km from here.

Earlier in the day, protesters defied curfew imposed in Jammu city, Samba and Bhaderwah towns and burnt effigies of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. They also shouted anti-government slogans.

The curfew, imposed in some areas of Jammu Tuesday afternoon after at least 80 people were injured in protests, was extended to all parts of the city at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Police vehicles fitted with loudspeakers announced the imposition of curfew and a large number of police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were deployed across this winter capital of the state.

However, protesters carrying posters of Hindu god Shiva took to the streets in Digiana, Gandhi Nagar, Raghunath Bazar and several other places in the city, defying the curfew.

Some of them threw stones at a private school owned by Higher Education Minister Gulchain Singh Charak.

The state government Tuesday cancelled the allotment of 40 hectares of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), which organises the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in south Kahsmir.

The decision quietened the violent protests against the allotment in Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley. Five people were killed during the protests there last week allegedly in police firing at mobs.

But the revocation of the allotment order led to protests by Hindu groups in Jammu from Tuesday. Protesters clashed with security forces, resulting in police firing, baton charge and use of tear gas.

On Wednesday, the protests spread to the districts of Doda, Samba, Udhampur and Kathua.

Police said over 60 people were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces across the Jammu plains.

Police said five people were injured in a grenade explosion targeting protesters in the chief minister’s hometown of Bhaderwah in Doda district.

Authorities imposed a curfew in the town as a precautionary measure since Bhaderwah has a history of communal clashes since 1947.

Doda district development commissioner K.A. Bhat said: “The curfew is a precautionary measure.”

Curfew was also imposed on Samba following violent protests.

Divisional Commissioner (Jammu) S. Pandey told reporters the army was put on alert and soldiers in Samba staged a flag march on the Jammu-Pathankote highway.

The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, through which all supplies are brought into the Kashmir Valley, continued to be blockaded by protesters for the second day Wednesday.

Truck and tanker owners also went on strike to support the protests against revocation of land allotment to the shrine board, causing a shortage in fuel supply to the valley.

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