Protestors lay siege to Jammu-Pathankot highway over police firing

August 5th, 2008 - 2:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Aug 5 (IANS) Hundreds of people lay siege to the Jammu-Pathankot National Highway Tuesday, demanding that the policemen who fired on protesters in the region’s Samba town Monday, killing two men and injuring 28 others, be brought to book. Police officials said traffic came to a standstill on the highway even as most parts of the Jammu region continued to be under curfew for the fourth day Tuesday. Army and police personnel were deployed to guard stranded trucks.

“There is no fixed formula to deal with such a situation. It has to be handled with care and this time we don’t want any escalation in the tension,” a police officer told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The Amarnath land row has taken a communal tone in Jammu and Kashmir as protests, violence and shutdowns have been going on for weeks now.

On Tuesday, two protesters were killed and at least 28 injured when police opened fire to disperse a mob that had gathered in Samba on the Jammu-Pathankot National Highway and held demonstrations seeking allocation of 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the shrine board.

Authorities fear violence at the cremation of the two youth killed in the police firing. Community elders are being asked to persuade people to allow the last rites to be held in peace.

The government allotted the land to the board of the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir May 26. But the order was revoked July 1 following 10-day-long violent protests in June in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. The revocation silenced the protests in the valley but ignited passions in Hindu-dominated Jammu.

Some Hindu groups, united under the umbrella organisation of the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti, have been demanding the restoration of the land to the temple trust. The plot, according to the government, was meant for creating facilities to hundreds and thousands of pilgrims to the Himalayan shrine.

But the protesters in Kashmir have alleged that the allocation of the plot was meant to settle outsiders to change the Muslim-majority character of the valley.

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