Violent protesters defy curfew in Jammu (Lead)

July 2nd, 2008 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 2 (IANS) Angry mobs demanding allotment of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) defied an indefinite curfew clamped on Jammu Wednesday by burning effigies of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and shouting anti-government slogans. Five people were injured in a grenade explosion in Azad’s hometown Bhaderwah. A curfew imposed in some areas of Jammu Tuesday afternoon after at least 80 people were injured in protests against the revocation of land allotment to SASB 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 local and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were deployed across the city.

However, protesters took to the streets in Digiana, Gandhi Nagar, Raghunath Bazar and several other places in the city, defying the curfew and heavy police presence. They raised anti-government slogans and burnt effigies of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Inspector General of Police (Jammu) K. Rajendra said the situation was under control even as protesters threw stones at a private school owned by Minister for Higher Education Gulchain Singh Charak.

The state government Tuesday cancelled its allotment of 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB, which organises an annual pilgrimage to the high altitude Amarnath shrine in Kahsmir dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The decision - taken by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad after a three-hour meeting with cabinet colleagues - quietened the violent protests against the allotment in Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley. Five people were killed during the protests there last week, allegedly shot by police.

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 several parts of Doda district, particularly Bhaderwah - the chief minister’s hometown. A grenade explosion in Bhaderwah left five people injured, police said.

It was not clear whether the injured were protesters but authorities imposed a curfew as a precautionary measure. Bhaderwah has a history of frequent Hindu-Muslim clashes since 1947.

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

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