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Pent-up anger keeps Jammu on the boil

Pent-up anger keeps Jammu on the boil

Author: Mohit Kandhari
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: July 29, 2008

Over a dozen injured as protesters defy curfew for second day

Angry Jammu continued to fight mother of all agitations triggered over Amarnath land transfer without showing any signs of exhaustion.

On Monday when Amarnath yatra sangharsh samiti -- a conglomerate of social, political and religious organisations spearheading the agitation extended the Jammu bandh till July 31, local residents instead of showing signs of fatigue backed the decision by lending their silent support.

Meanwhile, on the fifth day of spontaneous bandh, Jammu witnessed several violent protests with police control room coming on radar of the agitators in Parade Ground area. For the past three days, the area has remained focal point of agitation but the district administration has failed to restore normalcy despite imposing curfew restrictions.

The State police and the anti-riot police -- Rapid Action Force (RAF) -- are finding it extremely difficult to contain pent up anger among residents, defying curfew restrictions in large numbers to join the ongoing agitation.

In separate incidents of violence across Jammu, angry protesters torched police vehicles in Muthi area on the outskirts of Jammu.

In the walled city, protesters attacked a power sub-station and smashed windowpanes of police control room in day-long incidents of stone pelting. Police used heavy teargas shelling and water cannons to disperse the mob as it resorted to heavy stone pelting. Anti-riot police fired some warning shots in the air to quell the mob but violence showed no signs of abating till late evening. More than one dozen agitators and policemen were injured in the day-long violent clashes.

Desperate appeals made by Governor NN Vohra through media advertisements and interlocutors were ignored as all constituents of the sangharsh samiti are determined to take the agitation to its logical end.

Addressing a press conference at the end of the meeting of the Amarnath yatra sangharsh samiti in Geeta Bhawan, Leela Karan Sharma, convener of the samiti announced that the agitation would continue till its demands for restoration of 39.88 hectares of forest land to Amarnath shrine board and removal of Governor NN Vohra were conceded by the Government.

He announced that petrol and diesel supplies to the Kashmir valley would be blocked by the petrol tanker owners association till July 31 to mount pressure on the Government.

The agitation took a violent turn in Jammu on July 23 when Kuldeep Kumar Verma, an activist of the sangharsh samiti, sacrificed his life for the cause of Amarnath land transfer.

The public anger spilled on to the streets when police force disrespected dead body of Kuldeep, hailed as martyr, and also made a desperate attempt to perform last rites in the wee hours of Thursday. Police also lathicharged family members and activists of sangharsh samiti mourning the death of Kuldeep in Parade Ground area. In his suicide note, Kuldeep had stated that he was taking the extreme step to propel the agitation which was going on in Jammu since June 30. The first phase of the agitation was called off on July 8 after the fall of Ghulam Nabi Azad Government over the issue. The Government was reduced to minority when its ally, the People's democratic party, had pulled the plug and walked out of the coalition demanding cancellation of the forest land transfer order. The State cabinet on May 26, 2008 had diverted 39.88 hectares of land to Amarnath shrine board to built infrastructure for the pilgrims.

The order was misinterpreted and used by the Kashmiri separatists and Valley centric mainstream political parties to put pressure on the Government to revoke it as it had triggered mass uprising in Kashmir. Under pressure, the State Cabinet reversed its order on July 1. By doing this, the State Government managed to douse fires in Kashmir valley but since then Jammu is burning.

Meanwhile, the State unit of the BJP on Monday made yet another bid to blacken the faces of valley centric Kashmiri leaders in the eyes of people of Jammu by claiming that these leaders have encroached 1600 kanals of forest land on the outskirts of Jammu and illegally constructed palatial houses and buildings over it.

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