Curfew, shutdown continue as Jammu seethes over land row(Lead)

July 28th, 2008 - 7:23 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Jammu, July 28 (IANS) Angry protesters defied curfew orders to hold demonstrations here Monday as major towns and cities of the Jammu region observed shutdown for the fifth consecutive day against the Amarnath land transfer order revocation. The Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti, a group of some Hindu groups spearheading an agitation in Jammu for the restoration of 40 hectares of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), Monday called for an extension of the shutdown by another three days.

The shutdown was to end Monday evening. But Leela Karan Sharma, convenor of the conglomerate, told reporters that the government had not moved even an inch forward on their demands. The shutdown would stand extended until Thursday evening, Sharma said.

The AYSS demands include judicial probe into the death of Kuldip Kumar Dogra, return of the land to the shrine board, and recall of Governor N.N. Vohra.

The lull that had descended on Jammu after a 10-day spell of shutdowns and curfews since July 1 was broken July 23 when Kuldip Kumar Dogra allegedly ended his life to protest against government’s “inaction” on the land allotment issue.

The AYSS resorted to a signature campaign and black flag demonstrations and beating of utensils to press for land allocation and the governor’s recall.

Dogra committed suicide at Parade Ground last Wednesday when volunteers and supporters of the AYSS were sitting on a chain hunger-strike, sparking a new wave of violent protests in Jammu.

An indefinite curfew also continued, crippling normal life here.

The authorities enforced the restrictions strictly as people in many parts of the walled city of Jammu tried to hold demonstrations against the land alotment cancelation, which has rocked the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir for almost a month now.

The protesters were chased back to their homes by stick-wielding policemen, according to officials.

Police vehicles fitted with loudspeakers repeatedly warned people against violating the prohibitory orders. There was unprecedented deployment of police in some sensitive places in the city.

Other major towns of the Jammu region, including Udhampur, Kathua, Reasi, Samba, Ranbirsinghpora, Bishnah, Rajouri and Bhaderwah, observed complete shutdown.

Jammu has been reeling under a spell of shutdowns and curfews since July 1 when the government cancelled its May 26 allocation nearly 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB.

The board manages the annual Himalayan pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir, at an altitude of 3,888 metres, dedicated to Hindu god Lord Shiva.

The government was forced to cancel the order following massive protests in the Kashmir Valley, triggered by the widespread perception that the land would be used for settling non-locals to change the Muslim-majority character of the valley.

The government’s reversal of the decision helped the valley protests die down but the Hindu-majority Jammu region erupted in anger.

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