Land row: Government starts dialogue with Jammu protesters

July 30th, 2008 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 30 (IANS) Atfer month-long violent protests here, the government Wednesday initiated a dialogue with the group spearheading the campaign for allocation of forest land to a temple trust in the Kashmir valley. Two senior government officials - principal secretary (home) Anil Goswami and director general of police Kuldip Khoda - have approached the leaders of the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (AYSS) for a dialogue, a conglomerate of 30 Hindu groups, officials said.

The officials to IANS that a draft of proposals that took in all the view points and religious sentiments has been prepared for discussion with AYSS leaders.

Earlier, AYSS convenor Leela Karan Sharma had indicated the conglomerate was willing for a dialogue with the government, provided there were some concrete proposals.

Meanwhile, Jammu continued to observe a shutdown for the seventh consecutive day Wednesday, with business, shops, educational and other institutions closed. Roads were deserted.

The AYSS has given a call for the shutdown till Thursday evening in protest against the cancellation of land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), which manages the annual pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir.

The government May 26 allotted 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the SASB for creating “temporary and pre-fabricated” shelters for Hindu pilgrims on their way to the cave temple and back.

But the order was revoked July 1 following violent protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley, in which six people were killed. The protesters alleged that the land would be used to settle outsiders and change the Muslim-majority character of the valley.

The revocation order silenced the protests in Kashmir but ignited demonstrations in the Hindu-majority Jammu region, which has been reeling under curfews, shutdowns and violent protests for the past one month now.

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