Tension over land row heightens, Kashmiris asked to leave Jammu (Lead)

July 24th, 2008 - 7:00 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 24 (IANS) Tension gripped the curfew-bound Jammu city after some Hindu leaders asked Kashmiri Muslims to “pack up” from here and angry crowds defying curfew staged protest marches Thursday, a day after a man allegedly committed suicide here against the cancellation of land allotted to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). Undeterred by the curfew and agitated over the government’s alleged failure to restore land to the shrine board, people in several parts of this winter capital city and its suburbs held protest demonstrations and blocked the Jammu-Pathankote and Jammu-Srinagar national highways.

The protesters were raising slogans against Governor N.N. Vohra and National Conference president Omar Abdullah, whose effigies were burnt at various places.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state unit president Ashok Khajuria in a news conference asked Kashmiri Muslims to leave Jammu immediately.

“Omar Abdullah should not visit Jammu, and all Kashmiris should leave the region at the earliest. They have no right to be here,” Khajuria said.

Many areas in Jammu region observed a complete shutdown in response to the general shutdown call given by Amarnath Yatra Samgarash Samiti (AYSS).

“The protests will continue,” Leela Karan, convenor of the AYSS, told reporters here.

Karan said the situation could take any turn, and it would be better for the Kashmiris who have settled in Jammu to “pack up from here”. “They (Kashmiris) have no business to be here when their leaders are rigid in conceding land for the (Amarnath) pilgrimage and pilgrims’ facilities.”

Life in many towns of the Hindu-dominated Jammu region came to a halt with all shops, business establishments and educational institutions closed. The roads were deserted.

Divisional Commissioner (Jammu) Sudhanshu Pandey told IANS: “The indefinite curfew was imposed at dawn as a precautionary measure.”

The lull that had descended in Jammu after a 10-day-long spell of shutdowns and curfews was broken Wednesday when Kuldip Kumar Dogra allegedly committed suicide to protest the government’s “inaction” on the land row.

Dogra, in his late 20s, appeared at Parade Ground, where activists of the AYSS were on a hunger strike Wednesday. He made an emotional speech to the gathering, saying the revocation of the land transfer order to the shrine board had driven him to desperation. He said he was “sacrificing my ife for the cause”, eyewitnesses told reporters.

Dogra, who had allegedly consumed poison before making the speech, fell unconscious. He was taken to a hospital where the doctors declared him dead, the police said. His body was cremated at his native village of Bishnah region Thursday.

The police said a suicide note was found in Dogra’s pocket. It said he was upset about Omar Abdullah’s remarks in parliament Tuesday that Kashmiris would die but never give up their forest land.

Karan said the government should register a case against the National Conference president for his “communal and provocative utterances”.

The curfew continued in Jammu city but it was repeatedly defied by protesters, who raised anti-government slogans and demanded Governor Vohra’s recall from the state.

The AYSS is demanding the allocation of nearly 40 hectares of forest land to the Amarnath shrine board. The land was first diverted to the shrine board May 26 for setting up temporary prefabricated structures for pilgrims travelling to the cave shrine of Hindu god Shiva in south Kashmir.

The issue triggered massive protests in the Kashmir Valley. Protesters in the Muslim-majority region alleged that the plot would be used to settle outsiders and change the demographic character of Kashmir.

The government rescinded the order July 1. That silenced the street protests in the Kashmir Valley but ignited a counter agitation in Jammu, where people are still demanding allotment of the plot to the shrine board.

Related Stories

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

Posted in Politics |