Jammu protests government decision to retain forest land

June 30th, 2008 - 1:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, June 30 (IANS) People in this Hindu-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir Monday protested and observed a shutdown against the government’s decision to retain the controversial forest land earlier allotted to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). All businesses remained closed and public transport was off the roads as schools and colleges did not open while the attendance in the government and private offices was thin.

Jammu and Kashmir has been at the heart of a raging political and communal crisis triggered by the controversial March 5 order of the state government transferring 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the SASB, which used to manage the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir.

The Muslim-dominated Kashimr Valley witnessed violent protests against the transfer of the land to the SASB during the last week. Five people were killed in alleged police firing. Kashmiris allege the board would settle “outsiders” there and change the demography of the state.

Succumbing to the public pressure, Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also ex officio chairman of the SASB, Sunday gave up the claim on the land and asked the state government to manage the pilgrimage on its own.

The move was welcomed in the valley but invited public irk in Jammu. Several small groups of youth gathered at various places in the winter capital, criticising the governor and the chief minister.

The protesters were shouting slogans: “Vohra Hai, Hai, Ghulam Nabi Azad Murdabad (Down with Vohra and Azad).”

The police made extra deployment at sensitive places, the areas bordering Hindu dominated and Muslim majority localities, in the city.

“We are taking all the precautions,” said K. Rajendra, the inspector general of police, Jammu zone.

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