Heart patient dies as VHP blocks roads across India (Second Lead)

August 13th, 2008 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) A 70-year-old heart patient died in Haryana Wednesday as he could not be taken to hospital due to the nationwide blockade of roads and railway tracks by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists protesting the cancellation of land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board. The man had complained of a stomach ache and was being taken to hospital by his family members when their vehicle got caught in the traffic jam in Ambala town, about 45 km from state capital Chandigarh. The man died of a heart attack before reaching the hospital, police said.

In the national capital, VHP activists sporting saffron headbands and armed with canes began their protest at about 9 a.m., blocking roads in at least 20 places, including ITO, Moolchand, Dwarka, Rohini, Pitampura, Deepali Chowk, Laxmi Nagar, Shahdara, Akshardham temple, Uttam Nagar and Dhaula Kuan.

Carrying Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and VHP flags, slogan-shouting supporters, including women activists of the Sangh Parivar, blocked the Delhi-Jaipur highway and Delhi-Noida bridge over the Yamuna river for a brief period, which resulted in massive jams.

There were no reports of violence in the national capital region. But protesters burnt tyres and effigies at Gurgaon’s IFFCO and Hero Honda crossings before being whisked away by the police.

“There was not a single incident of violence in the national capital and traffic jams were immediately cleared,” Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told IANS.

VHP general secretary Parveen Togadia said: “The central government must give the land to the Amarnath shrine board; otherwise we will intensify our protest.”

“The government cannot take Hindus for granted and impose their diktats on them. It should remember that the agitation in Jammu is a mass movement of the Hindus and a result of long drawn discrimination against them,” he added.

In Punjab, VHP protesters blocked roads in Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana and other places. Traffic was disrupted at the most busy intersections of Chandigarh.

In Chhattisgarh, protesters laid siege to dozens of busy squares in capital Raipur besides bringing traffic to a halt at Bilaspur, Jagdalpur, Durg, Bhilai, Korba and Raigarh towns.

Protesters armed with sticks and iron rods squatted on national highway 43, connecting Raipur to the Bastar region, as well as the Raipur-Bilaspur highway.

South East Central Railway (SECR) officials said several trains were stuck at stations as activists of the VHP and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) squatted on tracks at Bilaspur, Raigarh, Raipur and Durg districts. Trains plying on the Mumbai-Howrah route were delayed the most.

VHP activists blockaded railway tracks in Uttar Pradesh and Orissa as well.

Bhupendra Dhillon, public relations officer at the Railway Divisional Office in Agra, told IANS: “The (Bhopal-bound) Shatabdi Express coming here from Delhi was delayed by 44 minutes as protesters detained it on the outskirts of the city.”

VHP Uttar Pradesh unit secretary Raghvendra told IANS that the Shatabdi Express had been detained at Rohta canal, 20 km from Agra.

Railway officials in Orissa said protesters delayed trains by squatting on railway tracks in various places, including Sambalpur, Rourkela and state capital Bhubaneswar. Road traffic in the state was also hit by the VHP protest.

“Traffic on national highways was totally paralysed during the two hour protest,” a police control room official said.

In Gujarat, VHP activists trying to block roads were detained by the police. VHP state unit president Dilip Trivedi and the group’s west zone secretary Ashwin Patel were held along with 42 others, police said.

In Madhya Pradesh, VHP activists did not stop vehicles ferrying schoolchildren but college students were not allowed to travel between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m in Bhopal. Satellite townships like Bairagarh and Kolkar were completely cut off from the state capital.

In Himachal Pradesh, the two-hour protest ended peacefully. However, schoolchildren and people heading to offices had to face traffic jams.

“The protest was more or less peaceful. No untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state,” Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) S.R. Mardi told IANS.

Ganesh Dutt, president of the BJP’s Shimla unit, claimed that the protest was successful as the traffic was blocked for more than two hours on the Chandigarh-Shimla national highway near the Victory Tunnel here.

For the last two months, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed unprecedented strife along communal lines over the allotment of 40 hectares of land in north Kashmir to the Amarnath shrine board, which manages the pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The allotment was revoked due to protests in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, which incensed people in the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

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