Jammu agitators ready for talks; 50 hurt in violence (Third lead)

August 20th, 2008 - 11:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Aug 20 (IANS) The organisation leading the protests here against the denial of land to the Amarnath shrine Wednesday announced a four-member team for talks with the government on the issue, even as 50 people were injured as rampaging mobs torched government buildings and clashed with the security forces.The Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (SAYSS) said three of its spokespersons - Tilak Raj Sharma, Suchet Singh and Narinder Singh - as also activist Pawan Kohli would conduct the talks with the state government.

“We have decided to enter into talks because we don’t want to be blamed for refusing to talk,” Samiti convenor Leela Karan Sharma said.

“The talks can begin anytime now,” he added.

Governor’s Advisor Sudhir Singh Bloeria heads the government panel for the talks. Jammu University vice-chancellor Amitabh Matoo, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board CEO B.B. Vyas and retired high court judge G.D. Sharma are its other members.

Bloeria had Tuesday invited the Samiti for commencing a dialogue to evolve an amicable solution on all the core issues.

Earlier Wednesday, Samiti-led agitators set ablaze a portion of the Sarwal police post and a government residential building opposite Gandhi Nagar police station.

At least 50 people, including a dozen policemen, were injured in the clashes between the police and stone throwing mobs in several parts of Jammu city and the border town of Akhnoor.

At many places, children led by parents forced their entry into the police stations and offered themselves for arrest.

Late Tuesday evening, the authorities warned the people not to allow their children to come out to court arrest. “This is illegal,” said an official spokesman.

The warning, however, failed to deter the protesters and on Wednesday, children and their parents carrying tricolours in their hands, marched toward police stations chanting “Bam Bam Bhole”.

There was no let-up in the violence despite curfew and army on the streets. Curfew was clamped Tuesday night on the entire Jammu city that has a population of one million. Army has been called out to keep the situation under control.

At some places, the agitators roamed freely.

The police fired teargas shells at many places, but that failed to deter the protesters.

The state government had transferred a 40-hectare plot of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board but later withdrew this following protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley. The revocation July 1 ignited an agitation in the Hindu majority Jammu region.

The Samiti had given a call for a three-day programme of “jail bharo” or courting arrest, and Wednesday was the turn of children after men courted arrest Monday and women Tuesday.

Over 350,000 people had offered themselves for arrest, according to a spokesman of Sangarsh Samiti, while the official estimates put it slightly less than 100,000.

Meanwhile, the Samiti also called for a civil disobedience movement against the state government and asked the people not to pay taxes or electricity and water tariffs.

However, the status of this was not immediately clear in view of the Samiti accepting the government offer for talks.

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