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Jammu explodes

Jammu explodes

Author: Mohit Kandhari
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 2, 2008

Firing follows curfew as protests escalate

Curfew was reimposed in two districts of Jammu region on Friday as the agitation by the Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti intensified resulting in injuries to 35 activists of the samiti and a few policemen.

Protesters torched a police post near Raj Bhawan in Panjthirthi area and police opened fire on the activists protesting on the Jammu-Pathankot National Highway in Samba. Two protesters were killed and eight injured as police opened firing to quell the protests by the agitators in Samba district. The condition of two of the injured is stated to be critical.

Governor NN Vohra was holding an all-party meeting inside Raj Bhawan when the protesters defied curfew and attempted to gherao the Raj Bhawan. National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti were trapped inside the Jammu Airport for over two hours as thousands of activists blocked its exit.

Six persons, critically wounded in the Samba firing, were rushed to the Jammu Medical College Hospital. Army was called in after the mob tried to attack the residence of the Deputy Commissioner (Samba). The agitators also tried to attack the house of Mufti Mohd Sayeed in the New Plot area on Friday evening and clashed with police. The police had to fire in the air and use teargas shells to disperse the protesters.

The situation turned ugly when thousands of Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti activists converged near the Jammu Airport to prevent Dr Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti from entering Jammu, which was witnessing the ninth day of bandh. The protesters, including women and children, reached the airport on tractor trolleys. Holding saffron flags and banners targeting Kashmiri leaders, they blocked the road outside the airport for over two hours. The anxious leaders had to spend two hours inside the VIP room before the State police chief could escort them to Raj Bhawan amid tight security.

The two leaders, in Jammu to participate in the all-party meeting called by the Governor, declined to board a helicopter to reach Raj Bhawan in view of the prevailing situation. Mehbooba Mufti attended the meeting as sole representative of the PDP as the other party leaders could not join her due to the tense situation in the Old City.

The Sangarsh Samiti activists had also blocked at several points all roads leading to Raj Bhawan by burning tyres in the middle of the road. Sensing more trouble, the district authorities imposed curfew in the entire Jammu district before the scheduled meeting at Raj Bhawan.

As the locals pelted stones and empty bottles on policemen from rooftops, police used heavy teargas shelling to disperse the protesters. With stones being pelted in the Old City till late in the day, the situation there was tense.

Official sources said the Governor on Friday proposed re-constitution of the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board and appealed to eminent citizens in Jammu to try and defuse the volatile situation. The Governor made it clear that after the board was reconstituted, the State Government would not meddle with its affairs, the sources added.

Meanwhile, reacting to the Governor's proposed move, State BJP vice-president Hari Om said that the move to reconstitute the shrine board was nothing but another attempt to hoodwink the people of Jammu.

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