Amarnath land row refuses to die down in Jammu

July 12th, 2008 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 12 (IANS) The Amarnath land row refuses to die down in the Hindu dominated Jammu region even as voices of dissent have started appearing among the outfits demanding the restoration of the land to the temple trust. Demanding that 40 hectares of forest land transferred to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) should stay with the trust, Hindu outfits led protests in the winter capital.

Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also ex officio chairman of the SASB, relinquished the land, in south Kashmir Baltal forest area, back to the state government after the Muslim majority Kashmir Valley witnessed violent protests. The previous Congress-led government July 1 cancelled the land allotment order ending one controversy but beginning another over the issue, which gained a communal edge in the state.

The decision by former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad quietened the violent protests in the valley but stirred up demonstrations led by Hindu groups in the plains of Jammu.

The Jammu region observed shutdown for 11 continuous days till Tuesday, which was called off for a week. The cancellation of protests led to dissent within the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti, an umbrella organisation of different outfits, demanding the restoration of the land to the SASB.

And those leading the agitation, including the Jammu Bar Association, Peoples Revolutionary Movement and the National Panthers Party, are now charging each other of showing “weakness”.

Despite their consensus on the “cause of Jammu”, the region they feel has been discriminated against by the Kashmiri rulers and salt rubbed into their wounds by the revocation of the order, they are openly in the game of finger pointing.

“We are not interested in becoming leaders of the agitation but if the people want, we will not hesitate to don that role,” said Jammu Bar Association President Baldev Singh Salathia, who resigned from the post of additional advocate general before launching the agitation.

He was annoyed the way the Sangarsh Samiti suspended the “shutdown call”.

Salathia termed the suspension of the protests, which crippled the normal life in Jammu from June 28 to July 8, as a “sign of weakness”.

Said Lella Karan, a senior lawyer and chairman of the Sangarsh Samiti: “It is not a sign of weakness, we have only changed our mode of agitation.”

These dissensions have come at a time where fears were being aired that the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena were dominating the agitation within the Sangarsh Samiti.

Some constituents of the amalgam feared that these groups were “furthering their political agenda” in the run up to the assembly elections, scheduled to be held later this year.

“Under no circumstances, we will allow anyone to hijack the agitation for their political ends,” Salathia said.

And so did Shiv Sena state unit president Ashok Gupta, whose group operates out of the Sangarsh Samiti.

“It is the cause of Jammu. We will stand against all those who would try to reap political dividends out of it,” Gupta said.

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