Hundreds stranded in Jammu as train, bus services disrupted

May 25th, 2009 - 9:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, May 25 (IANS) Several hundred people, mostly pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi shrine, were stranded in this winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir as bus and train services were disrupted following violent protests in neighbouring Punjab after a Sikh sect leader was killed in Austrian capital Vienna.
More than 20 trains run between Jammu and other parts of the country, mostly Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Haridwar. All of them pass through Punjab.

The railway’s Divisional Traffic Manager Ashok Sharma said: “Sixteen trains going out of Jammu and nine coming in to Jammu have been cancelled.”

He said about 8,000 to 9,000 passengers were affected and all possible steps taken to refund their fares. Extra eatable and water stalls had been put up at the station, he added.

Most of the Vaishno Devi pilgrims are sheltering at the railway station.

“There is no other place for us to go,” said Pushpa Devi of Delhi, who had come along with her brother’s family for the pilgrimage.

There was widespread fluster and confusion at the railway station, with the stranded passengers at a loss about how or when they would be able to leave for their homes.

Hari Krishan Sharma, of Delhi, who was to travel in Jammu express Monday along with eight others was feeling harassed. “Just giving us refunds will not make a difference in this sweltering heat. How are we going to reach home?” he asked.

“Even road traffic is off,” said Prithvi Dutt, a resident of Jaipur.

The period between May and October is the peak season for the pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine, nestled in the Trikuta hills, about 60 km north of Jammu. It attracts more than 7.5 million pilgrims every year.

Several parts of Punjab saw violence Monday as followers of the Dera Sachh Khand, opposing the attack on their leaders, brought the state to a standstill. Train bogies were torched at the Jalandhar Cantonment station, a key highway blocked and vehicles and shops set afire.

Meanwhile, the protesters also blocked the Jammu-Pathankot highway at Kathua and pelted stones at passing vehicles, also affecting road transport.

In Jammu, more than 5,000 dalits held a demonstration protesting against the attack on their religious leaders in Vienna and demanded action against the culprits.

Sect leader Sant Rama Nand, 57, the sect’s second-in-command, died in a hospital in Vienna, following an armed attack involving rival Sikh groups at a gurdwara the previous day. The attack also left at least 16 people injured.

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