Jammu protests government decision to manage Amarnath pilgrimage

July 1st, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

Jammu, July 1 (IANS) Several people, including three policemen, were injured in clashes here Tuesday as protests continued for the second day against the state government’s decision to take over the management of the Amarnath pilgrimage. The police allegedly opened fire at protesters in Muthi-Domana area seriously injuring three people. The injured are said to be critical in a hospital.

Three policemen, including a sub inspector, were also injured in stone pelting by an agitated mob at the same place, as the police baton charged the protesters wounding several of them.

More police reinforcement has been deployed in the area to control the situation, which is spiralling out of control as hundreds of people took to the streets to hold demonstrations.

Normal life remained paralysed in the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir as the shutdown, called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu groups, entered the second day Tuesday.

All business establishments and educational institutions have been closed in view of the volatile situation in the Jammu region. Public transport is off the roads.

The Hindu groups, including the Shiv Sena, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, are protesting the government’s decision to manage on its own the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir, which was hitherto being managed by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

Jammu and Kashmir has been at the heart of a raging political and communal crisis triggered by the controversial order of the state government transferring 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB.

The Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley has witnessed violent protests against the order and five people were killed in alleged police firing during the past week. Kashmiris allege the shrine board would settle “outsiders” there and change the demography of the state.

Succumbing to the public pressure, Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also ex-officio chairman of the SASB, Sunday gave up the claim on the land and asked the state government to manage the annual Hindu pilgrimage.

The move has invited public irk in the Jammu region triggering violent demonstration since Monday.

Protests were also held at Udhampur, Ramban, Rajouri and Samba districts, where demonstrators burnt effigies of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Governor N.N. Vohra, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba.

Criticising the government move to take control of the pilgrimage, Rajesh Gupta, leader of the Shiv Sena, said: “The government is bowing before anti-national elements.”

He also criticised the governor for his role in “appeasing the Kashmiri Muslim fundamentalists” by offering to hand over the large swathe of forest land to the state government.

“Vohra and Azad have joined hands with all anti-national forces represented by the Hurriyat Conference, the PDP and the National Conference.”

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