Army stages flag march in Jammu (Lead)

August 2nd, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, Aug 2 (IANS) The Indian Army Saturday staged flag marches in the Jammu region, where violence erupted a day earlier following the death of two people in alleged police firing while controlling riots against the revocation of land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board. Troops staged flag marches since the morning in many Hindu dominated areas here and in Samba and Kathua towns while the police were strictly enforcing curfew. But there were no reports of any violation of the prohibitory orders.

The Jammu-Pathankot highway, which was blocked by protesters till past midnight, has been opened and trucks carrying supplies to the Kashmir valley have started plying again, according to officials.

“We are trying to ensure safety of the trucks on the highway by all possible means and also attempting to keep miscreants away,” a police official told IANS.

He said disruption of normal supplies to the valley would not be allowed on any of the highways, the Jammu-Pathankot or Jammu-Srinagar - the only practical land route the Kashmir valley has with the rest of India.

The supply of essential commodities was disrupted because of the violent protests on the highway Friday.

The army was called out early Saturday, hours after two people were killed when the police opened fire at the rioters in Samba.

Mobs Friday went on the rampage after the killings. 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 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 also injured in the police firing.

“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,” Governor Vohra told reporters Friday.

The government allotted 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the Amarnath Shrine Board 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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