Jammu tense, army stages flag march (Lead)

August 3rd, 2008 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, Aug 3 (IANS) The Indian Army Sunday staged flag marches here and other curfew-bound towns of the region after protesters defied prohibitory orders as more than a month-long agitation for the return of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board continues here. Army troopers conducted the flag marches to deter the protesters, seeking return of the 40 hectares of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), from holding demonstrations.

Tension mounted as the people defied curfew in Domana and Digiana areas, where processions were taken out in support of the agitation for the land.

Despite the heavy presence of army, mobs flashing life size pictures of Lord Shiva and the Indian tricolour marched through the streets raising slogans against the police and Governor N.N. Vohra.

Army marches in the Jammu city too have failed to stop the groups of youth coming out in the streets.

Also on Sunday, curfew was imposed in two more towns of the Jammu region after authorities feared a flare up in communal tension.

Udhampur and Rajouri towns were kept under curfew following incidents of communal unrest there Saturday night, according to officials.

“It is a preventive measure”, inspector general of police K. Rajendra told IANS.

Jammu and Samba districts are already under curfew and sources said the Indian Army has been called out in all these places to ensure the situation remains under control.

Amid tension over the land row, groups from two communities clashed in the border town of Rajouri late Saturday evening but the police intervened and brought the situation under control.

Hindus and Muslims took out processions for and against restoring the land to the SASB and when the two groups reached the bus stand in the heart of the town, 160 km north of here, they started throwing stones at each other and damaged vehicles.

Meanwhile, authorities sealed the premises of two local TV channels, Take I and JK Channel, saying they were broadcasting “provocative material” that incited passions of people.

Contingents of police led by senior civil and police officials descended on JK Channel and Take 1 offices and served them notices saying that their channels were “running programmes and showing one-sided picture of the Jammu agitation, causing unrest among the people and provoking them.”

These two TV stations also run national and international channels through their network here. They also have their set ups in the Kashmir Valley.

Though no official was to explain the curbs on media, sources in the government said they were uncomfortable with the coverage of the agitation in Jammu on these two channels.

Mir Zamir, a Take I official told IANS: “This is beyond our comprehension.”

Police also teargassed a group of journalists who had gone to cover the police action against the channels. Ashwani Kumar of Aaj Tak news channel was injured in the police action and has been hospitalised. An NDTV cameraman Ashu was also beaten.

Police and army posses have been posted outside the offices of two major Hindi daily newspapers Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran.

SMS services on mobile phones have also been stopped since Saturday night.

Protesters in Jammu have been agitating for the past over one month for the restoration of 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the SASB that was given to the shrine board May 26 and then withdrawn July 1.

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