VHP protest hits road, rail traffic across India (Lead)

August 13th, 2008 - 1:47 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) Rail and road traffic across the country was hit Wednesday as activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) blockaded roads and railway tracks to protest the cancellation of land transfer to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). In the national capital, VHP activists began their protest at about 9 a.m., blocking roads in at least 20 places, incuding ITO, Moolchand, Dwarka, Pitampura and Deepali Chowk. However, the group had Tuesday said vehicles heading to schools and hospitals would not be stopped.

VHP general secretary Parveen Togadia said: “The central government must give the land to the Amarnath shrine board; otherwise our protest will continue.”

In Chhattisgarh, protesters laid siege to dozens of busy squares in capital Raipur besides bringing traffic to a halt at Bilaspur, Jagdalpur, Durg, Bhilai, Korba and Raigarh towns.

Protesters armed with sticks and iron rods squatted on national highway 43, connecting Raipur to the Bastar region, as well as the Raipur-Bilaspur highway.

South East Central Railway (SECR) officials said several trains were stuck at stations as activists of the VHP and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) squatted on tracks at Bilaspur, Raigarh, Raipur and Durg districts. Trains plying on the Mumbai-Howrah route were delayed the most.

Chhattisgarh VHP president Ramesh Modi asked people to come out of their houses and show their anger for “the insult caused to the Hindu community by cancellation of the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine board”.

VHP activists blockaded railway tracks in Uttar Pradesh as well.

Bhupendra Dhillon, public relations officer at the Railway Divisional Office in Agra, told IANS: “The Shatabdi Express coming here from Delhi was delayed by 44 minutes as protesters detained it on the outskirts of the city.”

Vishwa Hindu Parishad Uttar Pradesh secretary Raghvendra told IANS that the Shatabdi Express had been detained at Rohta canal, 20 kms from Agra.

In Himachal Pradesh, the two-hour protest ended peacefully. However, schoolchildren and people heading to offices had to face traffic jams.

“The protest was more or less peaceful. No untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state,” Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) S.R. Mardi told IANS.

Ganesh Dutt, president of the BJP’s Shimla unit, claimed that the protest was successful as the traffic was blocked for more than two hours on the Chandigarh-Shimla national highway near the Victory Tunnel here.

For the last two months, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed unparalleled strife along communal lines over the allotment of 40 hectares of land in north Kashmir to the Amarnath shrine board, which manages the pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The allotment was revoked due to protests in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, which incensed people in the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

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