Talks between governor, protestors on Amarnath land issue fail

August 1st, 2008 - 1:42 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, Aug 1(IANS) The first round of talks between Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra and leaders of the Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (AYSS), a conglomerate of 30 groups spearheading an agitation for restoration of land to the Amarnath shrine, ended Thursday in a stalemate. A six-member delegation of the AYSS led by its spokesperson Tilak Raj Sharma met the governor at Raj Bhavan Thursday evening. The meeting lasted for about 75 minutes.

The two sides discussed the issue of 40 hectares of land in Baltal in Kashmir and the governor is reported to have declined the appeal that land be restored to the shrine board.

“This cannot happen,” he is reported to have told the delegation, though he promised that he would constitute a panel of experts to study the official records and other details about the pilgrimage and other issues.

The AYSS leaders, in turn, rejected the call of the governor to end the month-long agitation.

“We told him that this cannot happen unless the land is returned to the shrine board,” Sharma old reporters after the meeting.

Meanwhile, Jammu shut down for the eighth consecutive day Thursday over demands that land be restored to the Amarnath shrine board.

All business establishments and educational institutions were closed and traffic stayed off the road as one more day of the shutdown called by AYSS came into effect. The strike is slated to continue till Sunday evening.

Although most of Wednesday had passed off peacefully, there was violence late evening in Samba, Kathua and Vijay Pur areas with protesters blocking the Jammu-Pathankot highway and smashing windowpanes of trucks and buses.

Several hundred tyres were burnt and in some parts of the city, protesters chanted Lord Shiva’s name - the Amarnath shrine is dedicated to the Hindu god - and shouted slogans denouncing the governor and National Conference president Omar Abdullah for his speech during the trust vote debate in parliament.

The Jammu and Kashmir government had allotted 40 hectares to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the pilgrimage to the shrine. However, it retracted its decision leading to furious protests in Hindu dominated Jammu.

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