Army called out in Jammu to curb violence

August 2nd, 2008 - 11:03 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, Aug 2 (IANS) The army was called out early Saturday in Jammu district, hours after large-scale violence erupted in the region following the death of two people in firing by the police who were trying to control rampaging mobs protesting the revocation of land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board. The army was called out in Jammu, Samba, Kathua towns of Jammu district and parts of Udhampur district, where mobs went on the rampage after the killings in Samba. They set ablaze a police post in Jammu, ransacked a government guest house in Samba, burnt down a revenue office in Hira Nagar, and tried to storm into the official residence of former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

The police opened fire Friday when protesters squatting on the highway refused to move away and clashed with the police. The agitators were protesting the presence of National Conference leader and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti at an all-party meeting Governor N.N.Vohra called here to discuss the Amarnath cave shrine land allotment row.

Fifteen people were injured in the police firing. Two of the injured died later, fuelling further violence.

“The policemen were overstretched trying to prevent mobs from setting afire the government buildings and vehicles. Hence, the army had to be called out,” an official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

“The situation is taking a grim turn. These are difficult times and we will have to take difficult decisions to deal with the situation,” Vohra told reporters.

The government allotted 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the Amarnath Shrine Board on May 26 for creating “temporary and pre-fabricated” shelters for Hindu pilgrims to the Amarnath cave shrine.

But the order was revoked July 1 following violent protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley, in which six people were killed. The protesters alleged that the land would be used to settle outsiders and change the Muslim-majority character of the valley.

The revocation order silenced the protests in Kashmir but ignited demonstrations in the Hindu-majority Jammu region, which has been reeling under curfews, shutdowns and violent protests, which have claimed five lives, for more than a month now.

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