Shutdown in Jammu to protest ‘jaziya’ by Taliban in Pakistan (Lead)

May 8th, 2009 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Jammu, May 8 (IANS) The day long shutdown Friday in Jammu, called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates to protest the imposition of ‘jaziya’, or protection tax, by the Taliban on Sikhs in Pakistan has been by and large peaceful though stray incidents of clashes between police and protesters were reported, officials said.
Most vehicles in the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir stayed off the roads as workers of the BJP, Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) came out on the streets to enforce the shutdown. Clashes with police were reported in some places, an official said.

Police also arrested some people for trying to force shops to close on the outskirts of Jammu.

BJP leaders have alleged that many of its workers were “mercilessly beaten” by police while they were “peacefully protesting”. Police, however, said that they were just pushed back while they were trying to force closure and disrupt private vehicular traffic.

Different organisations supporting the strike gathered at the main crossing of the city and marched to the United Nation’s office to hand over a memorandum to the representative urging the world body to take serious note of harassment of Hindus and Sikhs at the hands of the Taliban in Pakistan.

There was heavy police and paramilitary deployment across the city as protestors shouting anti-Pakistan and anti-Taliban slogans converged in the city’s Bikram chowk area.

Private vehicles started plying later in the afternoon but the shops and markets remained closed. The pilgrims to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine and tourists had to walk long distances in scorching heat as commuter vehicles were off the roads.

A local jirga in Pakistan’s restive Orakzai Agency in the northwest had ruled that the Sikh community should annually pay Rs.15 million ($187,000) as jaziya or protection money. Earlier reports had said the Taliban had demanded Rs.50 million but that this had been reduced later.

When the Sikh community expressed their inability to pay, the Taliban then auctioned their houses and other belongings, forcing them to migrate from the area. There were reports the militants had demolished 11 houses of the Sikh community after they failed to pay the jaziya tax.

The Orakzai Agency is situated in the virtually ungovernable Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where the writ of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda largely runs.

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