Jammu shutdown extended until Sunday evening (Second Lead)

July 30th, 2008 - 11:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, July 30 (IANS) The group spearheading the campaign for re-allocation of forest land to the Amarnath temple trust in the Kashmir Valley Wednesday announced that the shutdown in the state’s winter capital Jammu would be extended for further 72 hours till Sunday. Convenor of the Amarnath Yatra Sangrash Samiti (AYSS), a group of 30 Hindu outfits, r Leela Karan Sharma said: “There is a necessity to extend the ‘bandh’ (shutdown), which was to expire on Thursday evening, until Sunday evening, to give a momentum to the agitation.”

Jammu observed a complete shutdown Wednesday for the seventh consecutive day. The protests were free of violence for the first time since the agitation began a month ago.

The AYSS Wednesday said it was ready to settle for “better proposals” after talks with the government over the land row.

The group is looking at proposals like erecting buildings for Hindu pilgrims to the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir, Sharma told reporters.

He had a a 75-minute closed-door meeting with government emissaries.

Buildings for pilgrims at various places en route to Amarnath from Jammu, according to sources, was the same proposal of the erstwhile coalition government headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad.

These buildings may include permanent structures as well, the sources said.

As of the moment, Sharma said, the AYSS has sought “a congenial atmosphere for the dialogue to move further”.

He said the AYSS wants the government to “set free all the people arrested during the Jammu agitation since July 1 and punish the officers responsible for alleged atrocities on the agitators”.

The two senior government officers, principal Secretary (home) Anil Goswami, who is from Jammu, and Director General of Police Kuldip Khoda, a Kashmiri Hindu, however, refused to divulge the details of their discussion with the AYSS leaders.

The government May 26 allotted 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the Amarnath shirne board for creating “temporary and pre-fabricated” shelters for Hindu pilgrims on their way to the cave temple and back.

But the order was revoked July 1 following violent protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, in which six people were killed.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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