Amarnath land row: Jammu shuts down again

July 16th, 2008 - 2:36 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 16 (IANS) A shutdown was observed here again Wednesday after some Hindu groups, demanding that a controversial plot in the Kashmir valley be handed over to a temple trust, rejected Governor N.N. Vohra’s call for a dialogue on the issue. An indefinite shutdown to protest the government move cancelling the land transfer to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) was suspended last week.

But once again Wednesday, most of the shops, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed and traffic was off the roads in response to the “Jammu bandh (shutdown)” call by the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (AYSS).

The AYSS is an umbrella group of 28 social and political outfits demanding the plot be returned to the SASB. The 40-hectare plot in a designated forest in north Kashmir’s Baltal area was taken back by the state government July 1 after the May 26 of the state cabinet was rescinded.

Jammu and Kashmir was rocked by a series of violent protests over the controversial transfer order. The Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley opposed the move, forcing the government to revoke the deal.

The cancellation angered some Hindu groups in Jammu who have been demanding that the land be given back to the shrine board for the facilities of thousands of pilgrims to the mountainside shrine in south Kashmir, housing a Shiva ‘lingam’ or a stalagmite structure.

Activists of the AYSS demonstrated for over 10 days in Jammu until July 8, when the conglomerate declared it was suspending its protests for a week to allow the government to “rectify its mistake”.

Vohra had invited the parties, groups and people for a dialogue but could not get the agitators on the table. However, some of the political parties, the Congress, the National Conference and delegations of Gujjars and Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jammu met him and had detailed discussions on the situation.

In a message Tuesday evening, Vohra said the shrine board would continue to play its statutory role with “zeal and dedication” and, as such there was no dilution in its “authority or role”.

But the agitators insisted that he should first restore the land to the shrine board, before asking them to sit across the table.

“He must restore the land to shrine board, rest would follow,” chairman of the AYSS told newsmen here.

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