Kashmir land row: Three killed as communal tensions run high (Roundup)

August 4th, 2008 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Srinagar/Jammu, Aug 4 (IANS) Three people were killed in Jammu and Kashmir Monday during clashes for and against the land transfer to a temple trust — an issue that has communally polarised the two regions of the state. Two protesters were killed and at least 28 injured when police allegedly opened fire to disperse a protesting mob in Samba on the Pathankote-Jammu National Highway. In Srinagar, a youth hit by a teargas shell died when a mob, agitated over the alleged harassment of Muslims in Jammu, clashed with the police.

Tempers ran high in both Jammu as well as Kashmir regions over the Amarnath land row that has taken a communal tone as protests, violence and shutdowns have been going on for weeks now.

Protesters in the Hindu-dominated Jammu want the land to be handed over to the temple trust while Muslims in the Kashmir Valley protested against the land allotment.

The valley observed a near total shutdown Monday against the alleged harassment of Muslims in parts of Jammu over the issue.

Shops, businesses, banks, government offices and educational institutions in the summer capital Srinagar were closed and public transport was off the roads.

The police used tear smoke and batons to chase away protesters who were pelting stones at them at Nowhatta in the old city and at Maisuma of the summer capital.

The police said a 22-year-old youth identified as Asif was critically wounded when a teargas shell hit him at Maisuma. He was immediately taken to SMHS hospital but succumbed to injuries there.

Hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had given the call for the shutdown alleging Muslims in Jammu were being harassed during the ongoing agitation against the cancellation of land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

Tension ran high in Samba town of the Jammu region where violent clashes between the police and protesters left two people dead and 28 injured, official sources said.

People claiming to be eyewitnesses said police allegedly opened fire to disperse a protesting mob in the town on the Pathankote-Jammu National Highway, around 50 km from the winter capital.

The sources said the protesters gathered on the highway and held demonstrations seeking return of the 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir to the shrine board.

The government allotted the land to the board of the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir May 26. But the order was revoked July 1 following 10-day-long violent protests in June in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley. The revocation silenced the protests in the valley but ignited passions in the Hindu-dominated Jammu.

Some Hindu groups, united under the umbrella organisation of the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti, have been demanding the restoration of the land to the temple trust. The plot, according to the government, was meant for creating facilities to hundreds and thousands of pilgrims to the Himalayan shrine.

But Kashmiris allege that the land was to settle outsiders to change the Muslim-majority character of the valley.

Meanwhile, curfew in Jammu was relaxed for three hours Monday morning after three days of continuous prohibitory orders.

But the restrictions continued in other towns of Samba, Rajouri, Udhampur and Bhaderwah, where troops have been staging flag marches to main peace and order.

Protesters in Jammu had even blocked for many days supply of essential commodities to the Kashmir Valley in the past week on.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik Monday said he would begin an indefinite fast Tuesday against the highway blockade and harassment of Kashmiri drivers.

Malik also announced his full support to Kashmir fruit growers’ group, who have been demanding the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road for trucks to carry Kashmir fruit to various destinations.

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