Congress leader attacked, violent protests in Jammu (Lead)

August 21st, 2008 - 3:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Aug 21 (IANS) Senior Congress leader and former deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma had a narrow escape when angry protesters attacked him amid violent protests after curfew in Jammu was relaxed for 12 hours from 5 a.m. ThursdaySharma was on his way to a doctor’s house in Bhagwati Nagar here, when a group of youth attacked his car with stones. Security guards were unable to bring him out of the vehicle.

However, a guard on a bike saved Sharma who took a ride on his bike to escape the mob.

The word of the Congress leader’s presence brought more crowds who damaged cars parked in the area and set on fire some vehicles.

Sharma was health and medical education minister in the Ghulam Nabi Azad government, which had July 1 cancelled the allotment of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) - triggering violent protests in Jammu region.

There were protests and clashes in many parts of Jammu Thursday.

On Wednesday, over 50 people were injured in clashes that saw several police posts and vehicles damaged and government buildings attacked, leading to curfew which was relaxed Thursday morning.

“There was need to impose curfew Wednesday because the Jammu agitators had threatened to bring children on the streets,” an official said. People in large numbers, including children, still came out on the streets despite curfew.

Police and paramilitary forces have taken vantage positions to keep a watch on the situation, the official said.

National Security Adviser M.K. Naryananan, who had reviewed the situation in the state in Srinagar Wednesday, had voiced his concern over the law and order situation in the region. In Jammu, the nearly two-month-long agitation with consecutive days of shutdowns has left 12 people dead, more than 1,000 injured and massive economic losses.

The genesis of the trouble lies in the state government’s decision to transfer a 40-hectare plot of land in the Kashmir valley to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board but later withdraw this following protests in the Muslim-dominated valley. The revocation July 1 ignited an agitation in the Hindu majority Jammu region.

The Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti that has been spearheading the protests had given a call for a three-day programme of “jail bharo” or fill-the-jails, and Wednesday was the turn of children after men courted arrest Monday and women Tuesday.

The death toll in the entire state in the waves of protests and counter-protests now stands at around 40.

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