PDP office attacked as Jammu protests U-turn on land row (Lead)

June 30th, 2008 - 3:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, June 30 (IANS) Protests against the Jammu and Kashmir government’s U-turn on the Amarnath land row turned violent here Monday as an angry mob stoned Peoples Democratic Party’s office and also smashed window panes of some private vehicles. Life in the winter capital was crippled as the city observed shutdown in response to a call by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

Educational institutes and business establishments remained closed and public transport was off the roads.

Agitated over the government’s decision of retaining a huge area of forest land in north Kashmir, earlier allotted to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), people in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region forced shutdown at many places and fought pitched battles with the police.

Jammu and Kashmir has been at the heart of a raging political and communal crisis triggered by the controversial March 5 order of the state government transferring 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB, which used to manage the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir.

The Muslim-dominated Kashimr Valley witnessed violent protests against the transfer of the land to the SASB during the last week. Five people were killed in alleged police firing. Kashmiris allege the board would settle “outsiders” there and change the demography of the state.

Succumbing to the public pressure, Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also ex-officio chairman of the SASB, Sunday gave up the claim on the land and asked the state government to manage the annual Hindu pilgrimage on its own.

The move was welcomed in the valley but invited public irk in Jammu. Several small groups of youth gathered at various places in the winter capital Monday, criticising the governor and the chief minister.

An agitated mob threw stones at PDP headquarters in Jammu.

The PDP, which pulled out of the coalition government Saturday, was among the parties leading the campaign for the revocation of the land transfer order. This despite the fact that two of its ministers, the forest and the law, had signed the order.

Senior PDP leader Ved Mahajan was on the premises when the mob came raging and stoned the office. However, no damage was caused as the police chased the demonstrators and resorted to baton charge.

BJP leaders alleged that Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government has “humiliated Hindus” by taking a U-turn on the issue.

State BJP chief Ashok Khajuria termed Azad as a “communalist” and working on the agenda of Islamic fundamentalists.

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