Violence escalates in Jammu, central team reviews situation (Intro Roundup)

August 5th, 2008 - 12:09 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu/Srinagar Aug 4 (IANS) Tempers ran high in Jammu and Kashmir over land transfer to the Amarnath temple trust — an issue that has communally polarised the state - with three people killed during clashes Monday. A central government team arrived in Jammu to make an assessment of the situation on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office. Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh held detailed discussions over the situation in Jammu, where the people have been defying curfews, army flag marches and even police firing to hold demonstrations, demanding that land be restored to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.

The protests in Jammu region have left seven people dead and several hundreds injured and life paralysed amid curfews and shutdowns since the past few days.

The central team, according to sources in the government, was worried over the communal and regional confrontationist turn that the land row agitation in Jammu and Kashmir has taken.

The authorities are worried that despite army presence the people were out on the streets and the erroneous impression being created that it was aimed to stop supplies to the Kashmir Valley.

Violence escalated in Jammu region after people in Samba and Vijapur came out in large numbers on the highway after the killing of two people in Samba town Monday afternoon.

Hundreds of people were out on the Jammu-Pathankote National Highway from Samba to Vijaypur - a stretch of about 10 km.

Two protesters were killed and at least 28 injured when the police allegedly opened fire to disperse an angry mob in Samba on the Pathankote-Jammu National Highway. In Srinagar, a youth died after he was hit by a teargas shell when a mob, agitated over the alleged harassment of Muslims in Jammu, clashed with the police.

Protesters in the Hindu-dominated Jammu want the 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to be restored to the shrine board while Muslims in the Kashmir Valley are against the land allotment.

The government allotted the land to the board of the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir May 26. But the order was revoked July 1 following 10-day-long violent protests in June in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley. The revocation silenced the protests in the valley but ignited passions in Jammu.

Some Hindu groups, united under the umbrella organisation of the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti, have been demanding the restoration of the land to the temple trust. The land, according to the government, was meant for creating facilities for the hundreds and thousands of pilgrims visiting the Himalayan shrine.

But Kashmiris allege that the land was meant to settle outsiders to change the Muslim-majority character of the valley.

Meanwhile, curfew in Jammu was relaxed for three hours Monday morning after three days of continuous prohibitory orders.

But the restrictions continued in other towns of Samba, Rajouri, Udhampur and Bhaderwah, where troops have been staging flag marches to main peace and order.

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