Land row: One dead in violent shutdown in Kashmir

August 4th, 2008 - 6:45 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Ali G

Srinagar, Aug 4 (IANS) A youth was killed when a mob, agitated over the alleged harassment of Muslims in Jammu, clashed with the police here Monday during protests against the Amarnath land row — an issue that has polarised the two regions, Kashmir and Jammu, of the state. The Kashmir Valley observed a near total shutdown Monday against the alleged harassment of Muslims in parts of Jammu, where violent clashes in the past month against the revocation of forest land to a temple trust have taken a communal tone.

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

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 in Srinagar.

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 in the hospital.

Hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali 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 Sri Amarnath Shrine Board.

The government allotted the land to the board of Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir May 26. But the order was revoked July 1 following violent protests in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley.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 forest 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.

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

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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