Geelani asks Jammu Muslims to maintain communal harmony

July 2nd, 2008 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Ali G

Srinagar, July 2 (IANS) Syed Ali Geelani, hardline separatist leader and chairman of a breakaway faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Wednesday appealed to Muslims in Jammu to maintain communal harmony in the wake of violent protests over allotment of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). “I appeal to Muslims in Jammu to remain united and maintain communal harmony to defeat the designs of those forces who want to communalise the situation in the state,” Geelani said at a press conference here. He heads the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a breakaway faction of the All india Hurriyat Conference.

Geelani lambasted the Pakistani media for what he called “total blackout of the protests in the valley”.

“They must understand that ours is a people’s movement, which derives its strength from the people and not from anywhere else,” he said.

The state government Tuesday cancelled its allotment of 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB, which organises an annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir.

The decision quietened the violent protests against the allotment in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley. Five people were killed during the protests there last week, allegedly shot by the police.

But the revocation of the allotment order led to protests by Hindu groups in Jammu from Tuesday. Protesters clashed with security forces, resulting in police firing, baton charge and use of tear-gas.

A curfew imposed in some areas of Jammu Tuesday afternoon after at least 80 people were injured in protests was extended to all parts of the city at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

However, angry mobs demanding allotment of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) defied the curfew, burnt effigies of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and shouted anti-government slogans. Five people were injured in a grenade explosion in Azad’s hometown Bhaderwah.

The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway 1-A, through which all supplies are brought into the valley, continued to be blockaded by protesters for the second day Wednesday. Truck and tanker owners also went on strike to support the protests against revocation of land allotment to the shrine board, causing a shortage in fuel supply to the valley.

Geelani said the strike by transporters was “an indication that we must try to achieve self-reliance through austerity and simple living”.

He has asked Muslims to offer thanksgiving prayers at the Hazratbal shrine here Friday for “the success of the recent public campaign”.

Geelani also invited Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the moderate Hurriyat Conference, to accompany him to Hazratbal Friday for the prayers.

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