No ‘economic blockade’ of Kashmir, say Jammu agitators

August 11th, 2008 - 1:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Aug 11 (IANS) Agitators in Jammu demanding allocation of land to the Amarnath shrine board have denied any “planned economic blockade” disrupting supply of essential commodities to the Kashmir valley. Violent protests over the land row on the Jammu-Srinagar highway had caused disruption in the supply of medicines, food items and other commodities to the valley. Fruit imports from Kashmir through the road, which is the only motorable link to the valley, were also stopped.

Thousands of fruit-laden trucks were stranded on the road for many days due to the protests; perishable items worth millions of rupees were in danger of rotting.

The blockade had led to threats by fruit merchants of the valley to route their supplies to Pakistan-administered Kashmir capital Muzaffarabad across the Line of Control - a de facto border between India and Pakistan.

Called “Muzaffarabad Chalo”, that march is scheduled later Monday and has already won support from both factions of separatist Hurriyat Conference and mainstream Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti (SASS), a conglomerate of over 30 Hindu groups spearheading the Jammu agitation, denied the allegations of “economic blockade”.

“There is nothing like economic blockade,” said SASS convenor Leela Karan Sharma, while adding: “Hurriyat (Conference) leaders and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti should be allowed to go to Pakistani Kashmir.”

“Let them stay there forever. We will be getting rid of these anti-national elements,” Sharma told reporters Sunday evening in response to the “Muzaffarabad Chalo” march.

“Give a safe passage to all those who want to go Muzaffarabad,” he said.

Leader of Jammu Muslim Federation Abdul Majid said the utterances of Kashmiri leaders were causing problems.

“They must watch their words and not help those fringe elements trying to vitiate the atmosphere in Jammu,” he told reporters Sunday.

The more than than five-week violent campaign over 40 hectares of forest land that were marked for the Amarnath shrine board has claimed at least 15 lives. Following protests in the Kashmir valley, the land allotment was cancelled July 1, now sparking violent reactions in Jammu. The issue has created an unprecedented communal wedge between the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley and the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

The man on the street in Jammu feels dejected with the “petty politics” being played in the name of the Amarnath issue.

“They (politicians) are masters in twisting facts for their petty political gains,” said Suchet Singh, a retired soldier.

“We have become communal today,” he said, “because we are fighting for our rights”.

“All these leaders - Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Farooq Abdullah, Shabir Shah and Syed Ali Shah Geelani have their houses in Jammu. More than 250,000 Kashmiri Muslims have settled in Jammu over the past two decades and that time we were secular,” he said.

Om Prakash, a government employee, welcomed any step being taken to open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road for trade but said: Doing it in the surcharged atmosphere was a “politics of stoking flames in the already volatile situation”.

“We have already suffered too much, let leaders not push us further,” said Prakash, whose family had to flee Mirpur in Pakistan-administered Kashmir after the tribal invasion of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947.

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