Curfew continues in Jammu as communal tension prevails

July 3rd, 2008 - 2:39 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 3 (IANS) Curfew was extended to other parts of the tense Jammu region Thursday as angry mobs demanding allotment of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) set ablaze a few abandoned houses in a town, forcing the authorities to deploy army at communally sensitive places. Thursday was the fourth day of agitations in Hindu-dominated Jammu, where people continue defying prohibitory orders to hold anti-government protests. They have rejected all appeals from the government to calm down.

“This is a government of Islamic fundamentalists, and we are not going to call off our agitation because (Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi) Azad says so,” said Romesh Kumar, a student leader who led protests in Jammu’s walled city.

“We will go ahead with our agitation unless the government restores the land to the shrine board.”

The government Tuesday cancelled land allotment to the SASB, ending one controversy but beginning another over an issue that has gained a communal edge.

The order allotting 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB, which organises the pilgrimage to the high altitude Amarnath cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, was cancelled July 1.

The decision quietened the violent protests in Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley where five people were killed in alleged police firing last week.

But it led to violent demonstrations in Jammu where at least 80 people, including several police personnel, were injured in unrelenting protests since Monday against the cancellation of the order. The authorities were forced to clamp indefinite curfew on Jammu since Tuesday evening.

Reports from Vijaypur, a town 30 km south of Jammu, where protesters stopped trains Wednesday evening, said an agitated mob set ablaze a few “kullas” (huts) of Gujjars, who are up in the mountains with their cattle these days.

According to a report from Banihal, a town 180 km north of Jammu on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, a few Amarnath pilgrims were allegedly pulled out of their vehicles and beaten by some people, who also misbehaved with women pilgrims.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have called for a nationwide strike Thursday to protest the cancellation of the land allotment order.

Authorities here claim they were trying to bring the situation under control.

“We are trying our best to keep the situation under control,” divisional commissioner, Jammu, the highest civilian officer of the province, told media.

“Every one is concerned over the situation. We are determined to protect the properties and lives of all citizens.

Even in the few parts of Jammu not under curfew, normal life remained paralysed with people holding protests and demanding restoration of the land to the shrine board.

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