Fresh protests, strike cripple life in Kashmir

June 25th, 2008 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, June 25 (IANS) Violence and protests against the controversial allotment of forest land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) spread to other parts of the Kashmir Valley Wednesday as officials suspended the annual Hindu pilgrimage. Police and paramilitary forces were despatched to major and minor towns as the protests enveloped Budgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Baramulla and Bandipore districts even as a spontaneous strike crippled life in the valley.

Police said 20 people, including five policemen, were injured Wednesday in the street clashes.

Muslims in the Kashmir Valley are opposed to the allotment of a large swath of forest land to the management of the Amarnath cave shrine located in south Kashmir. They allege that the board would use the land to settle “outsiders” in the area and thus change the region’s demography.

In Srinagar, slogan-shouting young men took to the streets in several localities and stoned the police and paramilitary personnel. The city has witnesses protests for the last two days.

Security forces used batons and tear smoke in Rajbagh, Nowhatta, Nawakadal, Jamalatta, Hazratbal, Lal Bazzar, Parimpora, Ali Kadal and other localities in Srinagar to disperse the mobs.

The police fired warning shots at Jamalatta.

The situation in the north Kashmir district of Ganderbal remained volatile as protestors again blocked the Srinagar-Baltel Cave shrine route for the second consecutive day.

The mobs stoned police personnel and vehicles carrying Hindu pilgrims to the Amarnath shrine.

A police officer said window panes of several vehicles were smashed.

Police and demonstrators were locked in unending clashes at Nunar, Duderhama, Saloora, Theru, Barsoo and Kurhama in Ganderbal district. Several people were reportedly injured.

A report from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district said nearly 500 people took out a procession in the town Wednesday morning. They threw stones at passing vehicles.

Authorities have beefed up security along the Srinagar-Pahalgam route leading to the cave shrine.

Hundreds of locals also marched through south Kashmir’s Pulwama town. They forced the closure of shops and businesses. Reports from adjacent areas said the situation was tense.

Students of schools and a college in north Kashmir’s Baramulla town took out a procession, leading to the closure of shops. The streets were deserted, according to police sources.

The joint action committee comprising bar associations, chambers of commerce and industry and trader groups Wednesday staged a sit-in against the controversial order here.

Shops and business were shut in Pattan and Bandipore towns in north Kashmir.

“The situation is highly tense. We have made adequate security arrangements to maintain law and order,” said a senior police officer.

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