Abdullah, Mufti forced to stay in airport by protestors

August 1st, 2008 - 6:35 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, Aug 1 (IANS) Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and People’s Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti, who had come here to attend an all party meeting, were forced to stay inside the airport for over three hours by protestors demanding allocation of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. Curfew was imposed in the city after the incident.

Abdullah and Mufti had flown from Srinagar to Jammu Friday to attend the all party meeting called by Governor N.N. Vohra

The word leaked out that Abdullah and Mufti would be attending the all party meeting following which protesters blocked the roads leading to the airport and they pelted stones.

The state government offered to airlift them in helicopter to the Raj Bhavan but they declined.

After a while, the protestors `learnt’ that either the two leaders were going to be taken back to Srinagar or being airlifted to Raj Bhavan. So, they dispersed with some heading for the Raj Bhavan.

In the meantime, the route from airport to the Raj Bhavan, a distance of about 12 km, was virtually sealed by three battalions of police and para-military personnel. It was then that the Abdullah and Mufti left the airport for the Raj Bhavan by road.

Earlier Friday, the leaders of the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (AYSS), a conglomerate of 30 groups spearheading an agitation for allocation of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, Friday decided not to have further talks with Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra. The first round of talks Thursday had ended in a stalemate.

“It is pointless to talk to the governor again unless he sends us a concrete proposal on the land issue,” Tilak Raj Sharma, spokesperson for AYSS, told the media.

Sharma had earlier said that they would continue with their agitation until their goal is achieved and simultaneously hold talks as well. But, the change of mind came after several hundred protesters gathered around the houses of Tilak Raj and Sangarsh Samiti convenor Leela Karan asking them to get the land before talking.

Mediapersons were hurriedly called to be informed that the talks had broken down. “Talks have failed,” said Sharma.

Although the governor has called a meeting of prominent residents of Jammu and also of the leaders of all parties, the agitation leaders have warned them against “making any compromise”.

Meanwhile, the Jammu shutdown entered the ninth day Friday. Shops, commercial establishments and educational institutions were closed. The government May 26 allotted 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the SASB for creating “temporary and pre-fabricated” shelters for Hindu pilgrims on their way to the Amarnath cave temple and back.

But the order was revoked July 1 following violent protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley, in which six people were killed. The protesters alleged that the land would be used to settle outsiders and change the Muslim-majority character of the valley.

The revocation order silenced the protests in Kashmir but ignited demonstrations in the Hindu-majority Jammu region, which has been reeling under curfews, shutdowns and violent protests for the past one month now.

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