Jammu agitators torch police post near governor’s house (Second Lead)

August 1st, 2008 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, Aug 1 (IANS) Several hundred people defied curfew here Friday afternoon and marched toward the Raj Bhavan to protest the arrival of “Kashmiri leaders” for talks on the Amarnath land row. A mob torched a police post close to the governor’s residence and fought a pitched battle with the police. The mob clashed with the police. While the agitators showered stones, the police resorted to baton charge, teargassing and also opened fire in the air to disperse the agitators.

The agitators torched the police post in Panjtirthi area, close to the Raj Bhavan after its attempts to storm into the governor’s residence were foiled by the police and paramilitary forces.

The agitators were protesting the presence of National Conference leader and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti at an all-party meeting Governor N.N.Vohra called here to discuss the Amarnath cave shrine land allotment row.

Heavy police deployment failed to deter the agitators.

Earlier on their arrival from Srinagar here for the all-party meeting, Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were forced to stay within the airport for over three hours as the agitators blocked their way out. The agitators also pelted stones at the airport building and the security personnel.

In the wake of the airport incidents, curfew was imposed in the city, Samba and other nearby areas.

Worried security forces thought of rescuing the two state leaders and flying them out with helicopters to the Raj Bhavan for the all-party meeting. But farooq and Mehbooba declined to use the helicopter.

But as the word about the plans leaked and throngs of agitators dispersed, Abdullah and Mehbooba were moved by road, over three battalions of the state police and para-military forces virtually sealing the 12-km stretch from the airport to the Raj Bhavan.

Earlier Friday, leaders of the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (AYSS), a conglomerate of 30 groups agitating for allocation of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, decided not to have further talks with Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra. The first round of talks Thursday was infructous.

“It is pointless to talk to the governor again unless he sends us a concrete proposal on the land issue,” Tilak Raj Sharma, spokesperson for AYSS, told the media.

Sharma earlier said the samiti would continue with its agitation and simultaneously hold talks. But, the change of mind came after several hundred protesters gathered around the houses of Tilak Raj and Sangarsh Samiti convenor Leela Karan asked them to get the land before starting any talks.

Mediapersons were hurriedly called and informed that the talks have broken down. “Talks have failed,” said Sharma.

Although the governor has called a meeting of prominent residents of Jammu and also of the leaders of all parties, the agitation leaders have warned them against “making any compromise”.

Meanwhile, the Jammu shutdown entered the ninth day Friday. Shops, commercial establishments and educational institutions were closed.

The government May 26 allotted 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the SASB for creating “temporary and pre-fabricated” shelters for Hindu pilgrims to the Amarnath cave shrine.

But the order was revoked July 1 following violent protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, in which six people were killed. The protesters alleged that the land would be used to settle outsiders and change the Muslim-majority character of the valley.

The revocation order silenced the protests in Kashmir but ignited demonstrations in the Hindu-majority Jammu region, which has been reeling under curfews, shutdowns and violent protests for the past one month now.

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