Incident free I-Day, Kashmir governor calls for peace

August 15th, 2008 - 3:21 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sarwar Kashani
Srinagar, Aug 15 (IANS) The Kashmir Valley was calm on India’s 61st Independence Day Friday as Governor N.N. Vohra urged people to rise above religious and regional divides to solve the bitter Amarnath land row that has polarised Hindus and Muslims of the troubled state. Vohra’s speech at the heavily-guarded Bakhshi Stadium here was dotted with references to the land row even though he fall short of explicitly naming it.

Using words like recent “disturbances”, “events” and “developments, Vohra said the onus of recreating “a peaceful environment lies on the people of all the three regions (Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu) and on all of us”.

“The recent developments, since I came here to serve the people of Jammu and Kashmir, compel me to emphasise that more than any government, it is the people of the state who have been and will have to continue to be the agents of change and missionaries of peace,” he said.

Unlike the recent Independence Day celebrations, this time there was no public presence at the venue and even school children did not take part in the ritualistic parade. Apparently, the separatist Hurriyat Conference had threatened to boycott anyone who takes part in the function.

The cultural pageant that normally follows the march past on this day was dispensed with. A contingent of students from the Police Public School provided the token civilian component at the parade.

However, mainstream political leaders from the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist were present on the occasion.

Outside the venue, an uneasy calm prevailed in the summer capital even as authorities lifted the curfew.

Tight security was in place to prevent any violence on a day when separatist groups usually mark their presence by attempting to attack the official Independence Day functions or security forces.

The police, paramilitary and army personnel were deployed in strength around the Bakshi Stadium. Sharpshooters took positions atop buildings all around the venue.

Police officials said there were no reports of any violent incident from across the valley - much to the relief of the administration that has had a tough job of maintaining law and order in the wake of the crisis over the Amarnath land row.

More than 40 people have died in two months of furious protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley and Hindu-majority Jammu region following the dispute over the allotment — later cancelled — of land to a board that manages the annual pilgrimage to the Hindu shrine of Amarnath.

Vohra, who performs chief ministerial functions since the state legislative assembly was dissolved July 10, stressed that the issue be resolved through democratic process, based on the principle of “dialogue and reconciliation”.

“We have to rise above beyond communal, regional and the ideological divides and look to restore a peaceful environment.”

The governor expressed grief over the “recent disturbance” which has shattered economy of the state, causing business losses totalling millions of rupees.

“I am particularly disturbed by the fact that the disturbances took place at the height of the business and tourist season. Whatever may have been the reasons and provocations, the unfortunate outcome has been that trade and tourism have suffered losses.

“Worse still, the free and open environment which prevailed earlier in the year, attracting a large number of visitors to the state, has been adversely affected.”

He also urged the people to use their right to vote in the assembly elections due in October this year.

Without mentioning when the elections would be held, the governor said: “The people of Jammu and Kashmir can contribute to building the edifice of peace and democracy in the state, brick by brick; your vote will be your invaluable contribution.

“What we need is a fresh, clear and firm resolve from each of you to participate in electing a popular government, and it shall be my business to ensure that you have the full freedom to do so in a healthy, non-communal, non-sectarian and non-acrimonious environment.”

Independence Day celebrations were also held at Baramulla, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Pahalgam, Badgam, Kupwara, Anantnag and Shopian towns across the Kashmir Valley, officials said.

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