Violence in Jammu region, curfew in Kathua (Lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Aug 25 (IANS) Violence flared up in several parts of Jammu Monday as police lobbed teargas shells and opened fire to disperse people who were taking out processions demanding early restoration of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). An indefinite curfew was imposed in Kathua, a town 80 km southwest of Jammu, following incidents of arson and violence.

People in Kathua had come out on the streets, enraged over police action against those marching in processions to protest communal violence in Poonch and also demanding restoration of land to the shrine board.

More than 30 people were injured in Kathua, Jammu and Digiana where police fired in the air and lobbed teargas shells as agitators insisted on moving forward breaching the human wall created by the police.

Senior Superintendent of Police Manmohan Singh was among the injured.

After facing cane charge by police, protesters in the Hindu-dominated Kathua set afire two shops belonging to minority community members.

People were angry over the mob violence in the Muslim-majority district of Poonch where more than 70 shops were burnt or damaged in communal clashes.

Curfew remains imposed in Poonch since Saturday morning.

Processions were also taken out in Jammu where people burnt effigies of National Conference president Omar Abdullah, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

More than a dozen people were injured as agitators clashed with police at Digiana on the outskirts of Jammu.

The protesters clashed with police when they were prevented from taking out a procession on the highway to Pathankot. They were chanting religious slogans when police stopped them and allegedly used force against women leading the procession.

Enraged by the police action, the protesters threw stones at the policemen while Rapid Action Force (RAF) men deployed in the area lobbed teargas shells at them. In the pitched battles that followed more than a dozen people were injured.

Jammu was observing a complete shutdown and there was no vehicular movement following a call given by the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, leading the nearly two-month long agitation demanding re-allocation of government land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. The allocation order was cancelled July 1.

Despite three rounds of talks between the governor’s panel and the Samiti Saturday and a broad understanding between the two sides, there was no end to the agitation in sight.

“Our agitation will continue till our demand is met,” Samiti convenor Leela Karan Sharma has declared. The Jammu shutdown, which was to end Monday evening, has now been extended till Aug 31.

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