Amarnath Samiti doing more harm than good, say Jammu residents

October 7th, 2008 - 1:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Amarnath ShrineJammu, Oct 7 (IANS) Many people in Jammu have stopped rallying around the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, saying protests organised by it have already cost them too much economically and now it is meddling in their social affairs as well.”We are a tolerant society, we were asking for restoration of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and not the unwanted tags which have come partly because of the utterances of the Samiti leaders and partly by deliberate misrepresentation of facts,” bemoaned Daisy Sharma, a businessman here.

“My shop remained closed for more than two months, but I had to shell out fees for my children and also pay salaries to my employees, and now I am told that the agreement that the Samiti signed with the government is a watered down version of the first order of land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board,” he said.

In retaliation to Kashmir’s boycott of Jammu traders, the Samiti has now said Kashmiri children should be refused admission to educational institutions here.

People here say such utterances have only damaged the Samiti’s image.

The Samiti, a conglomerate of 30 social, religious, political and business organisations, spearheaded over two months the agitation against the cancellation of land allotted for pilgrims to the Amarnath shrine.

This led to an economic blockade of the valley and caused a communal divide between Hindu-dominated Jammu and Muslim-dominated Kashmir.

But Jammu residents say they are hurt about being dubbed as “Hindu communalists”, virtually being clubbed with right wing mobs who are attacking Christians and their churches in Orissa, Karnataka and Kerala.

Anil Kumar Padha, a local businessman, could not make it to marriage of his closest friend, Ashraf Malik, in Budgam in the Kashmir valley.

“My family did not allow me to go there in the prevailing atmosphere of fear and suspicion between the two regions. So I had to make an excuse for not attending.”

A majority of Jammu residents believe the Samiti may have done more harm than good to the region. Students here could not appear in all-India entrance examinations and the economy suffered a loss of over Rs.100 billion, says local traders’ body chief Rajender Motial.

Worst of all, relations between the Jammu region and Kashmir valley in terms of the political, religious and social landscape have hit an all-time low.

Rekha Choudhary, head of the political science department in Jammu University, said: “The losses have not only been in terms of economy. What is more worrying is the communal divide and response to separatist calls by Muslims in the Jammu region.”

She says there was complete loss of faith and trust between the two regions, which is “visible to a great extent between the communities”.

People are blaming the Samiti’s tough stand during the agitation and some incidents of Kashmiri drivers being beaten up for the boycott of Jammu products by Kashmiri traders.

So much so that National Conference president Omar Abdullah last week blamed the Samiti and the alleged economic blockade of the valley in the Jammu region for the rise of separatist forces in the Kashmir valley.

“The economic blockade injected a new life into the Hurriyat Conference and the separatists,” Abdullah declared at a rally of his party workers.

“It is time the Samiti saw the writing on the wall. It is not required. It has damaged Jammu’s cause and that of the whole state,” National Conference’s provincial president Ajay Sadhotra told the media.

The Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry too has asked everyone not to meddle in trade relations between the Jammu region and Kashmir valley.

“It would be prudent if the trade is left alone (out) of the political discourse,” chamber president Ram Sahai has said in a statement.

This was seen as a rebuff to the Samiti, who had warned the government of dire consequences if Jammu’s products were not bought by Kashmiri traders.

Ram Sahai has had to hear persistent taunts from his Kashmiri counterparts that his chamber was part of the Samiti that enforced an “economic blockade” of the valley. That was cited as the reason for Kashmiri traders saying “no trade” to Jammu businessmen.

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