70 injured in Jammu protests as government cancels land deal (Second Lead)

July 1st, 2008 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 1 (IANS) At least 70 people were injured here Tuesday as despite ban on processions violent protests continued against the Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to rescind the controversial land transfer to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). “We have imposed section 144 CrPc banning processions in Jammu in the light of the situation in the region,” said a senior official, referring to the high volatility following violent protests since Monday.

According to sources, 70 people were injured, some critically, in clashes Tuesday as demonstrations continued for the second day against the revocation of the land transfer to the board that managed the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine at Amarnath in south Kashmir.

The police fired bullets, teargas shells and resorted to intense baton charge to disperse the stone pelting mob at several places in this winter capital city of the state.

“The situation is extremely tense,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Farooq Khan told the media.

Superintendent of police Sanjay Kotwal was among many policemen injured in stone-pelting in Amphalla area in the walled city of Jammu, as violent clashes also erupted at Domana, Muthi, Jatwal, Rehari areas.

An agitated mob staged a sit-in on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, blocking traffic on the only road link to the Kashmir Valley.

More police reinforcement has been deployed in the region to neutralise the situation, which is spiralling out of control.

Normal life remained paralysed as the shutdown, called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu groups, entered the second day Tuesday.

All business establishments, educational institutions were closed in view of the volatile situation in the Jammu region. Public transport remained off the roads.

The Hindu groups, including the Shiv Sena, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, are protesting the government’s decision to manage on its own the annual Hindu pilgrimage which was hitherto being looked after by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

They are also protesting the government’s move to take back the controversial forest land from the SASB.

Jammu and Kashmir has been at the heart of a raging communal crisis triggered by the state government order transferring 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB.

The Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley has witnessed violent protests against the land transfer and five people were killed in alleged police firing during the past week. Kashmiris allege the shrine board would settle “outsiders” on the allotted land and change the demography of the state.

Succumbing to the public pressure, Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also ex-officio chairman of the SASB, Sunday gave up the claim on the land and asked the state government to manage the annual Hindu pilgrimage.

The move evoked public ire, this time in the Hindu-majority Jammu region, and triggered violent demonstrations since Monday.

Protests were also held at Udhampur, Ramban, Rajouri and Samba districts, where demonstrators burnt effigies of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Governor N.N. Vohra, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba.

Criticising the latest move, Rajesh Gupta, leader of the Shiv Sena, said: “The government is bowing before the anti-national elements.”

He also criticised the governor for his role in “appeasing the Kashmiri Muslim fundamentalists” by offering to hand over the large swathe of forest land to the state government.

“Vohra and Azad have joined hands with all anti-national forces represented by the Hurriyat Conference, the PDP and the National Conference.”

The protesters pulled down hoardings of Azad and other Congress leaders, and trampled those under their feet.

Several BJP leaders and activists have been arrested in Jammu.

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