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Entire Jammu under siege but rallies unabated

Entire Jammu under siege but rallies unabated

Author: Sanjeev Pargal
Publication: Daily Excelsior
Date: August 10, 2008
URL: http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/web1/08aug10/news.htm

A 40 member delegation of Rashtravadi Muslim Munch (RMM) comprising 16 women, which was on way from New Delhi to Jammu and Srinagar to tell the Muslims to restore 800 kanals land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), was detained and sent back by police from Ravi bridge at Lakhanpur, the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir, this afternoon but not before the Manch leaders held a demonstration at the bridge in support of their demand and extending full support to their Hindu brethren in their 41 day long struggle for a just and genuine cause.

Even as authorities didn't relax curfew in any part of Jammu, Samba and Udhampur districts today apprehending trouble during the visit of an all party Central delegation to Jammu, crowds at the rallies surged at several places in these areas to give a message to the delegation that the agitation has taken the shape of a mass movement and was not going to stop at any cost unless the land is restored to the SASB. As Army, CRPF and police didn't allow even a single person to come out on the road from Satwari to Raj Bhawan sealing all roads leading to BC Road by erecting barbed wire fencing during movement of the delegation, people including women turned up on their roofs and showed tricolor and black flags to leaders and beat 'thalies' and coonch shells "to awaken the sleeping Central and State Governments from deep slumber' to restore the land to the Shrine Board.

The rallyists shouting 'Bum Bum Bhole', 'NN Vohra Go Back', 'Mehbooba, Omar Hai Hai' came out on the roads close to the National Highway and all other major roads notwithstanding the deployment of hundreds of Army, RAF, CRPF, Reserve Police and local police personnel. In Sunderbani town of Rajouri district, activists of Muslim Federation also joined the rally taken out in support of the agitation.

Barring a two hour relaxation in the morning, curfew continued in Kathua district for third day, Rajouri town for seventh day and Poonch town for second day. In Jammu and Samba, curfew remained in force for 9th consecutive day today while in Udhampur town, today was eighth day of indefinite curfew.

Army, meanwhile, today started air surveillance of two National Highways from Pathankot to Qazigund and Udhampur-Pathankot rail track to ensure uninterrupted movement of trucks to and fro Srinagar and the trains, both the services which were on the target of protesters and have been repeatedly disrupted.

Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Col S D Goswami confirmed the air surveillance through routine flying of the choppers.

Authorities had today deployed all five Brigades of Tiger Division, Jammu including Miran Sahib, Domana, BD Bari, Kalu Chak and Sunjwan, three Brigades of Mamoon Cantt including 51, 78 and 90 and 168 Brigade Samba in all sensitive areas of Jammu, Samba, Kathua and Udhampur districts and Pathankot to Banihal on the National Highway to strictly enforce curfew restrictions during the visit of an all party Central delegation to Jammu headed by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil. In addition to nearly 8000 troops, about 6000 jawans of RAF, CRPF, Reserve Police and police had been deployed in all volatile areas to keep the people indoors as authorities didn't relax curfew in Jammu and Samba districts and Udhampur town, which they had been doing for last three days continuously. Even the people holding curfew passes were not allowed to move out in the city and towns.

As reported, last night's decision of the administration to relax curfew in Jammu district from 5 am to 8 am, in Udhampur from 7 am to 10 am and Samba district from 5 am to 10 am was withdrawn by the authorities last mid-night anticipating that the protesters might march towards Jammu to show their presence to the delegation, which could have forced Army and police to take action against them. Despite strong presence of Army and other para-military forces, the people succeeded in taking out rallies at several places.

Reports said a 40 member delegation of Rashtravadi Muslim Munch including 16 women, which was on way from New Delhi to visit Jammu and Srinagar to persuade Muslims of Kashmir and their leadership not to become an obstacle in restoration of 800 kanals land to the SASB, was stopped by police and para-military personnel as soon as they entered the jurisdiction of Jammu and Kashmir at 10.30 am today in a bus at Ravi bridge in Lakhanpur area of Kathua district, the gateway of J&K.

The Muslim delegation which was led by Moulana Hirzab Rehman Marathi, Shahi Imam of Jharkhand and comprised top Muslim leaders like Imam Umre Ahmed Almami, president, Indian Muslim Parishad and Tanveer Ahmed, ex-president, Central Haj Committee, told the administration that they were on a peace mission to the State to persuade Kashmiri leadership to use their influence to return the land to the SASB and should be allowed to go ahead with their mission.

However, a strong pose of CRPF and police led by Additional SP Kathua Rajeshwar Singh and Additional DC Daulat Ram Sharma asked the delegation to return reportedly on the instructions of the Government. The delegation wanted them to be either allowed to visit the State or arrested. After an hour long protests at Ravi bridge, police detained all members of the delegation including women under Section 107/151 and released them after half an hour from Lakhanpur. The delegation returned to New Delhi.

Speaking to mediapersons at Ravi bridge, Moulana Hirzab Rehman Marathi said it has never happened in the history of India that land donated for a religious purpose has been taken back. "Even the Rajas (be they Hindus or Muslims) have never taken back the donated land for the shrines. Doing so is a sin, which can never be forgiven", he said as all other members of the delegation including women endorsed his view point.

Even he quoted from a religious book to drive home his point that any thing donated for religious purpose can never and should never be taken back. He condemned the J&K Government for taking back the land from the SASB and wanted it to be restored immediately.

The delegation members belonged to different States including New Delhi, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.

Curfew was relaxed in Kathua town for two hours from 6 am to 8 am. Kathua district is under curfew for last three days. In the evening, a large number of women from Krishna Colony, Parli Band, Ward Nos. 3, 4, 5 and other areas of the town marched towards Shaheedhi Chowk defying curfew restrictions and held a massive demonstration shouting 'Bum Bum Bhole' and 'NN Vohra Hai Hai'. Police today exercised restraint and fired only few tear smoke shells to disperse the crowd. It may be recalled that yesterday, police had resorted to heavy lathicharge and teargassing on the procession in Kathua town causing injuries to several protesters including women.

People also took out processions at Nagri, Jakhbar, Patel Nagar, Shiva Nagar, Dayala Chak, Hiranagar, Ramkot, Nagrota, Basohli, Mahanpur, Lakhanpur and other major towns and rural areas of the district in support of the agitation. In Barnoti, people held a demonstration near the highway for an hour.

Though for the last three days, authorities had been giving relaxation in curfew in the morning for a different period in Old City and areas across Tawi bridge from 5 am to 1 pm, today no relaxation was given in curfew in any part of the district, which reeled under ninth straight day of curfew restrictions.

All link roads and streets leading to BC Road from Satwari Chowk to Raj Bhawan and Old City roads had been barricaded by Army with barbed wire fencing to ensure that not even a single protester could come close to the convoy of all party delegation. However, people, mostly women came to the roofs in their houses in different localities along the road used by the delegation and beat 'thalies' and coonch shells to ensure that their voice was heard by the delegation and land restored to the SASB. At some localities, people also waived black flags and tricolor on their roofs.

Despite stiff restrictions on movement of the people, the protesters managed to take to streets at several places in Jammu district and took out rallies chanting 'Bum Bum Bhole' and other religious and anti-Government slogans. At Karan Nagar and Panjtirthi, the two localities close to Raj Bhawan, where the delegation was putting up, women continued to beat 'thalies' throughout the day.

Swami Dinesh Bharti, who has been mobilising the movement for restoration of land in most parts of the region, led a huge rally from Gajansoo Aashram to Mishriwalla in which a large number of women and children participated and vowed to continue their struggle till restoration of land to the Shrine Board.

People from Bantalab, Patoli Brahamana, Gurha Keran, Muthi, Lower Muthi, Durga Nagar, Roop Nagar, Netar Kothian and several adjoining villages marched in processions to Dream Land City along Jammu-Akhnoor road where they held a 'Vishal Rally' which was among others addressed by late Swami Dwarka Natha Shastri's son, Gangu Ji Maharaj, Kailash Khajuria, Omi Khajuria, Vijay Sharma, Sukhdev Singh, Ghar Singh, Tara Chand Choudhary, Master Mohan Lal, Jasbir Singh, Pappu Ji, Pavinder Gupta, Jugal Dogra and Manohar Lal Bhagat.

The people demonstrated at Dream Land City for more than two hours. However, since all streets leading to Jammu-Akhnoor road had been fenced by Army, para-military and police, the people were not allowed to come to the main road.

There was no locality in the City and outskirts barring Old City, which was under total siege of Army and para-military forces, where the people didn't come out of their houses and took out rallies in support of the agitation.

Huge rallies were taken out by the people with large participation of women and children at Janipura Colony, Old Janipura, Rehari Colony, Rehari Chungi, Subash Nagar, Bakshi Nagar, Shakti Nagar, Rajpura and posh localities across Tawi bridge including Gandhi Nagar. In Sainik Colony, a large number of people including ex-servicemen held a demonstration near UNO's office and took serious exception to the statement of GOC 9 Corps Lt Gen Vinay Sharma that Army could also open firing on ex-servicemen protesters.

In Akhnoor, Jourian, Pallanwalla and Khour towns, Army and police didn't permit the people to take out the rallies. At Rakh Muthi, security forces had barricaded Khour-Akhnoor road to prevent movement of the rallyists. Bar Association, Akhnoor, also tried to take out a rally but were not allowed.

Four women leaders of Panthers Party including Manju Singh, Jasdeep Kour, Rashika Sahni and Deepali today went on a hunger strike outside the party's office.

Huge processions were taken out by the people from Raya, Soankha, Gurha Slathia and Utterbehni in Bari Brahamana-Vijaypur belt towards the National Highway. For a couple of hours, the protesters staged a dharna on the Highway blocking half of its portion. Later, they were asked to disperse by Army and police. Rallies were also taken out by the people at Sarore, Jalu Chak, Bishnah, Arnia, RS Pura, Shiv Nagar to SIDCO lane, Gurha Slathia and other areas in defiance of curfew restrictions. In Vijaypur town, relay hunger strike by the Sangarsh Samiti entered into fifth day today.

In Samba town, where curfew relaxation was announced by the administration from 5 am to 10 am but was withdrawn at 7.30 am anticipating that the people might move towards Jammu. People, however, took out a rally from Link Road to Hari Singh High Chowk in large number and dispersed before reaching the National Highway as the road had been fenced by the Army.

In Ghagwal area of Samba, a huge crowd marched from different villages and reached Narsingh Mandir from where they took out a procession towards Nanoth Ashram and dispersed peacefully.

Nine persons including four youths, two women and three cops were injured as incidents of stone pelting by the mob, which was replied by the cops with lathicharge and teargassing in different parts of Poonch town, where curfew was imposed by the administration yesterday morning.

People took to streets at Bus Stand, Purani Poonch, Khaka Nawan, Parade Ground, Sher-i-Kashmir bridge, Sheesh Mahal and Azad Mohalla at mid-night last night and resorted to stone pelting on the cops. Members of both the communities also exchanged stoning from roofs of their houses.

Heavy exchange of stone pelting continued between the two sides from 1 am to 3 am before both the groups were dispersed by police. Army remained deployed on outskirts of the town.

Trouble again erupted in the afternoon in Poonch town when youths of minority community started stone pelting on police. Ding dong battles between cops and protesters continued till this evening.

In the evening, people held a meeting at Akhara Mandi, from where annual Budda Amarnath yatra is launched, where they were addressed by Mahant Basant Ram. The Mahant asked the people to continue their agitation in a peaceful manner, take out daily processions and beat thalies on roofs in the evening. He advised the people not to resort to violence.

In neighboring Rajouri, where curfew remained in force for 7th day today, authorities relaxed curfew from 4 pm to 5.30 pm in Jawahar Nagar and Gujjar Mandi areas and from 5.30 pm to 9 pm in Old City. Curfew relaxation passed off peacefully. Curfew was imposed in Rajouri town after youths of majority community had damaged closed shops and business establishments of minority community protesting thrashing of majority community youths at Sunderbani and Rajouri town.

Sunderbani, Nowshera and Kalakot besides some other towns of Rajouri district continued to observed a bandh. In Sunderbani town, people took out a rally which was also joined by the activists of Muslim Federation, which extended full support to the Sangarsh Samiti's demand for restoration of land to the Shrine Board.

In Udhampur town also, which remained under the grip of curfew for eighth day today, no relaxation was given in curfew by the administration in anticipation of trouble due to the visit of all party delegation. However, people including women gathered at Adarsh Colony, Housing Colony, Chabutra Bazaar, Shiv Nagar and other localities and marched towards the Main Market. Led by senior BJP leader Pawan Gupta, the mob tried to force their way towards Jammu-Srinagar national highway but were stopped by the troops.

Protesters indulged in massive sloganeering against the Governor, NC and PDP president before dispersing.

Ramnagar, Chenani, Majalata, Tikri, Rhembal and other towns of Udhampur district also observed a bandh and people took out rallies in support of the agitation.

Night curfew continued in Bhaderwah town of Doda district where situation remained peaceful. In view of Mani Mahesh yatra beginning August 11, shopkeepers in Bhaderwah and Kishtwar towns have decided to keep their shops open for few hours for a couple of days to ensure that the pilgrims didn't face any problems. However, minorities in Bhaderwah and Kishtwar towns continued to support the agitation by holding rallies and demonstrations and burning effigies of the Government.

In Reasi town, people including women and children braved heavy rains to take out a massive rally in the town, which was joined by a large number of Gujjars. BJP leader Subash Vaid went on a fast-unto death in Reasi town demanding restoration of land to the Shrine Board. Eight leaders of Panthers Party continued their hunger strike in the town.

All shops and business establishments remained closed in Reasi town for 18th successive day today. Shopkeepers kept their shutters down in Katra town on 9th straight day and people took out a rally in the evening.

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