Kashmir protests against land transfer to Amarnath board

June 24th, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Ali G

Srinagar, June 24 (IANS) Widespread protests across Srinagar city, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, against the controversial allotment of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) marred normal life Tuesday. Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of Feroze Ahmad, 39, who was allegedly killed in firing by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Nowhatta area of the old city Monday evening. Ahmad was injured while protesting against the land transfer.

The surcharged crowd carrying Ahmad’s body shouted slogans against the government and the SASB. Later, the slain person was buried in the martyrs’ graveyard at Eidgah in the old city area.

The land transfer to SASB, the board that manages the annual pilgrimage to the Hindu cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir, has snow-balled into an unrelenting controversy.

The land was allotted to the board to build temporary facilities for pilgrims.

But the critics, including mainstream and separatist political parties, allege that the shrine board would use it to raise permanent structures to settle non-Kashmiris, thereby changing the Muslim-majority character of the Kashmir Valley.

The valley has witnessed huge protests against the issue since last week.

Stone pelting mobs stopped traffic and forced closure of shops, businesses and schools in the old city areas even as lawyers and prominent citizens carried out a protest march in the city centre Lal Chowk.

The police tried to intercept the marchers, but fearing further escalation of trouble, the administration then allowed them to move on.

Reports from north Kashmir Ganderbal district said protesters gathered at Beehama Chowk on the Srinagar-Baltal Amarnath route obstructing traffic on the highway.

The police fired tear-smoke shells and used batons to disperse the protesters who kept on regrouping at the crossing disallowing vehicular movement.

Meanwhile, senior separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Shabir Shah were put under house arrest by the authorities here in order to prevent their participation in the protests.

Shops and businesses in the uptown civil lines areas also shut down as reports of protests spread throughout the city like wild fire.

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