Amarnath land protests continue, curfew in Bhaderwah (Roundup)

August 4th, 2008 - 12:04 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, Aug 3 (IANS) Curfew was clamped in Bhaderwah town of Jammu and Kashmir, putting five towns in the region under prohibitory orders, as protesters Sunday continued their month-old agitation demanding land for the Amarnath shrine. While Jammu, Samba, Rajouri and Udhampur have already been under curfew, Bhaderwah, 200 km north of here, was placed under curfew after communal clashes.

Even as the army staged flag marches in these towns, people came out on streets and held demonstrations, demanding the land taken back from the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) be returned to it for providing facilities to Hindu pilgrims.

A senior official told IANS that the situation was threatening to take a communal turn as miscreants were trying to take advantage of it.

“The government will not allow the situation to become communal. The curfew and flag marches are to keep the troublemakers away,” the official said.

Despite the heavy presence of army, mobs displaying pictures of Lord Shiva and the Indian tricolour marched on the streets shouting slogans against the police and Governor N.N. Vohra.

Army marches in Jammu too failed to stop the groups of youth coming out in the streets.

Amid tension over the land row, groups from two communities clashed in the border town of Rajouri late Saturday evening but the police intervened and brought the situation under control.

The groups of Hindus and Muslims took out processions for and against the land alotment to the SASB and when the two groups reached the bus stand in the heart of the town, 160 km north of here, they started throwing stones at each other and damaged vehicles.

Protesters in Jammu have been agitating for the past over one month for the restoration of 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the SASB that was given to the shrine board May 26 and then withdrawn July 1.

The agitation had affected traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar highway but more than 600 trucks of commodity supplies reached the Kashmir Valley as the security forces guarded the highway.

Meanwhile, the Jammu shutdown, continuing since July 23, was further extended by five days.

The government Sunday lifted the ban on two Jammu-based TV channels following an agreement with their managements.

Authorities had earlier sealed the premises of the two TV channels, Take I and JK Channel, saying they were broadcasting “provocative material” that “incited passions of people”.

Contingents of police led by senior civil and police officials descended on JK Channel and Take 1 offices and served them notices.

The police also used teargas on a group of journalists who had gone to cover the police action against the channels, injuring may of them.

Police and army personnel were posted outside the offices of two major Hindi daily newspapers, Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran.

SMS services on mobile phones have also been stopped since Saturday night.

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