Azad seeks consensus on land for shrine, Mufti talks tough (Lead)

June 25th, 2008 - 9:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, June 25 (IANS) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad Wednesday decided to convene an all-party meeting soon to work out a consensus on the land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), but ruling coalition leader Mufti Muhammad Sayeed demanded the deal be first annulled. “Some people are trying to play negative politics by dividing the masses on religious lines on this issue. My government would not allow this,” Azad told a media conference here, in his first comments on the controversial allotment that has sparked widespread protests in the Kashmir Valley.

“No permanent construction of any sort would be allowed on the land diverted to the SASB,” he said.

But Sayeed, former chief minister and patron of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said the all-party meet would serve no purpose unless the controversial land allotment order was first rescinded.

Azad said the issue should normally have been sorted out through debate, discussion and seminars but certain vested interests were forcing people to take to the streets.

The chief minister distributed a background note on the allotment of 39.88 hectares of forest land to the SASB by his government March 5, 2008.

“Please read this note carefully. It is not land allotment to the SASB. It is simply diversion of forest land to the board for facilitating the Amarnath Yatra and the diversion is purely temporary,” he said.

The diversion of forest land to the SASB at Baltal in Ganderbal district has generated a controversy here.

Speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of the swearing-in of the new governor, N.N. Vohra, at the Raj Bhavan in summer capital Srinagar, Sayeed said: “The proposal was discussed during my tenure as the chief minister, but I opposed it as it would hurt the sentiments of millions of the people here.”

“The cabinet should have kept this in mind before approving the land allotment.”

Asked if his party was prepared to withdraw from the ruling alliance on this issue, Sayeed said: “We can consider any option to have our demand met.”

But Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig told reporters: “We have simply made a diversion of the forest land to the SASB.”

“The whole issue was blown out of proportion by the officials of the SASB who went to the media claiming that the board now enjoyed ownership rights on the land and would construct permanent structures on it,” Baig noted.

“It is they who are trying to give a communal overtone to the whole issue.”

The Kashmir Valley has been paralysed as thousands of protesters here have been demanding immediate rescinding of the land allotment to SASB, which manages the Hindu cave shrine of Amarnath. The shrine attracts tens of thousands pilgrims every year.

For the third consecutive day Wednesday violence, demonstrations and road blockades threw life out of gear here in Srinagar and a number of towns.

Meanwhile, in Jammu several Hindu organisations held protests against any move to cancel the land allotment.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Politics |