Amarnath land issue ends


Core issue of land to Shrine Board, majority of other demands conceded
Govt-Samiti ink agreement at 4.40 am
*Samiti suspends agitation, Sangarsh rally converted into Victory rally

By Sanjeev Pargal
& Avtar Bhat

JAMMU, Aug 30: Sixty two days long agitation and 39 days consecutive bandh, during which majority areas of Jammu region not only put up a united face but converted the strike into a mass movement which spread even in rural and remote areas creating a history, has finally led to the victory of the people of the region with the Government and Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (SAYSS) striking an agreement at 4.40 am on Sunday morning after nearly 9 hours marathon meeting during fourth round of talks, which started at 8 pm tonight exactly a week after the three rounds of dialogue were held last Saturday. Only hitch which delayed the signing of agreement for a couple of hours till late mid-night tonight was withdrawal of Public Safety Act (PSA) detentions and attachment of SSP Samba Prabhat Singh on which both the sides had taken divergent stand. However, the issue was resolved and the deal was clinched at 4.40 am when the Government’s panel reportedly agreed to transfer Prabhat Singh and withdraw the PSA cases imposed against two persons including Swami Dinesh Bharti during the agitation. Soon after the agreement was signed between the two sides, the Samiti leaders hugged each other and loudly chanted ‘Bum Bum Bhole’. Majority of Samiti leaders agreed that tomorrow’s ‘Sangarsh rally’ at MA stadium, on which the administration was undecided to allow it or not, could well be a ‘Victory rally’ dropping enough hints that two months long agitation has ended positively.

While majority of demands of the Sangarsh Samiti have been conceded, the core issue of restoration of 800 kanals of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has been addressed with the Government agreeing to set aside 800 kanals of land at Baltal for exclusive use of the SASB.

After the agreement, SAYSS convenor Leela Karan Sharma announced suspension of the agitation and declared that Sunday’s ‘Sangarsh rally’ has been declared as a ‘Victory rally’.

Both sides signed the agreement at Guest House, the venue of talks, which was already thronged by a large number of youths who had started dancing to the tunes of ‘dhols’ and drum beats after getting reports that the Shrine Board has got the land back, a core issue of the people of majority parts of Jammu region for which they had been observing 39 days of continuous bandh and agitating for the last 62 days. Prior to 39 days of consecutive bandh, Jammu had observed bandh for nine days from June 30 to July 8. The previous bandh was called off after the fall of Ghulam Nabi Azad led coalition Government on July 7.

After preliminary hiccups, the dialogue between four member Governor’s panel and an equal number of Samiti delegation, started around 8 pm today. The talks were scheduled for 4.30 pm but the Samiti members were busy in mobilising people for tomorrow’s rally of Jammu region at MA stadium and also held their full house meeting before going in for much delayed fourth round of talks. After three rounds of talks last Saturday, the Governor’s panel led by Dr Sudhir S Bloeria, Advisor to Governor, had told the Samiti that they would report back to them on reservations voiced by the Samiti members over previous agreement, within two-three days.

Besides Dr Bloeria, the Governor’s panel comprised Justice (Retd) G D Sharma, Jammu University Vice Chancellor Prof Amitabh Mattoo and B B Vyas, Principal Secretary to Governor. The SAYSS panel, which held talks with the Government, include Brig (Retd) Suchet Singh, Tilak Raj Sharma, Dr Narinder Singh and Pawan Kohli.

The core issue of land to the SASB has been addressed to our satisfaction, a number of jubilant Samiti leaders told the Excelsior.

The talks were stalled last Saturday when the Government had offered 800 kanals of land at Baltal to the SASB for ‘use’ for a period of three months. However, the Samiti wanted categoric allotment of land to the Board, a demand which has been conceded by the Government despite objections raised by former Chief Minister and PDP patron Mufti Mohd Sayeed in a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh yesterday.

After nearly three hour long talks tonight, the four member Samiti panel reported to ‘Full House’ of the Samiti and all of them expressed satisfaction at the agreement and reached the Guest House where both sides signed it and held a joint press conference in wee hours of Sunday morning.

Sources said setting aside 800 kanals of land for exclusive use of SASB has clearly addressed the Samiti’s demand on the core issue.

All powers of the Shrine Board will remain unchanged as per the proposed agreement. The Board, whose members had resigned during the agitation to facilitate its re-constitution, will continue to be headed by the Governor, who will have free powers to choose the members. All powers of the Board as they existed before Amarnath land row controversy erupted will remain unchanged, sources said.

They added that there will be no change in autonomous status of the Board.

Regarding withdrawal of cases registered by police against the protesters during the agitation, sources said, the Government has agreed to withdraw bailable offences as well as the PSA detention. For few cases including criminal it proposed to set up Nodal Officers. The Government has agreed to set up Nodal Officers as per the choice of the Samiti.

Sources said the Government was initially hesitant on withdrawal of PSA cases as they would have to do the same in Kashmir Valley where half a dozen separatists have also been detained under the same Act. Besides fire brand Saint Swami Dinesh Bharti, a Hiranagar youth Dalip Kumar have been ordered to be detained under PSA. While Dinesh Kumar, a youth of Mertha, Hiranagar, has already been lodged in Kot Bhalwal jail merely for pelting stones on trucks, Swami Dinesh Bharti has gone underground. However, after more than two hour long negotiations, the Government agreed to withdraw the PSA detentions.

Another major hitch pertained to Samiti’s demand for suspension of SSP Samba Prabhat Singh. Later, the Samiti leaders came down to his attachment saying this was the crucial demand of the people of Samba. The Government proposed that Prabhat Singh would be transferred after sometime, a demand to which the Samiti agreed.

A judicial inquiry has already been ordered on police role and desecration of the dead body of Kuldeep Dogra on July 23 night. Dogra had ended his life in support of the movement on July 23 afternoon at Samiti’s dharna venue at Parade Chowk fuelling the agitation and since then Jammu has been observing a complete bandh.

Regarding demand for action against police officers for excesses on the protesters, sources said, the Government has proposed a panel to examine other cases of excesses.

Insiders in the Samiti said their tomorrow’s rally at MA stadium, which was earlier named as Sangarsh Rally, will now be converted into a ‘Victory Rally’.

The Government has also worked out modalities for compensation to traders and transporters etc, who have suffered heavy losses during over two months long agitation. The Government was also ready for compensation to dead and injured in firing and violence during the agitation, sources said.

Samiti leaders confirmed that majority of their demands including core issue of return of land to the SASB have been addressed much to their satisfaction.

Meanwhile, the administration had initially decided to impose curfew to thwart Samiti’s ‘Sangarh Rally’ at MA Stadium which was expected to draw more than 5 lakh people from all parts of Jammu region. Still, the authorities have directed all districts not to allow any bus carrying rallyists to move towards Jammu. However, after the agreement, the authorities didn’t impose curfew but maintained their direction to the districts to stop movement of buses towards Jammu. Even some roads leading to the City in Jammu district have also been fenced.

“We will take a decision tomorrow morning on whether to allow the Samiti to hold the rally or not. In view of changed circumstances (the agreement between the two sides), we might allow the rally but with few people”, sources said.

A number of Sadhus and Saints including a Shankaracharya and Sadhvi Ritambara are proposed to address the rally.

Adding to problems of the administration was a report that two militants have been spotted in a house at Sang Talab near Nardani Nullah in Raipur area, close to the site of Wednesday’s encounter at Chinore in which 11 persons including all three fidayeens were killed.

SSP Jammu Manohar Singh said two militants in police uniform were spotted in a civilian’s house at Sang Talab late tonight. Army, CRPF and police have been sent to the spot in large strength and entire areas has been cordoned off. However, there were no reports of firing from either side till late in the mid-night tonight.

Sixty two days long agitation and 39 days consecutive bandh in Jammu for restoration of land to the SASB is being described by many a veterans, who were witness to several agitations here including 1952-53 Praja Parishad agitation, as historical with mass participation of the people in most parts of the region.

Praja Parishad agitation against withdrawal of permit system, abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution granting special status to the State and ‘Ek Vidhan, Ek Pardhan Ek Nishaan’ from October 28, 1952 to June 24, 1953. Sixteen persons were killed and scores others were injured while a large number of agitationists including Pt Shyama Prasad Mukherjee were arrested. Mukherjee had died under mysterious circumstances on the intervening night of June 22 and 23 in a temporary jail at Nishat Bagh. The agitation had ended on June 24, 1953 following a call from the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. The agitation was a success as permit system and ‘Sadar-e-Riyasat’ were abolished while Article 370 continued.

Another important agitation in Jammu was launched in November 1987 when the then Farooq Abdullah Government had decided to keep the Civil Secretariat permanently in Srinagar. After over a fortnight long agitation, the then Union Home Minister and Congress leader Buta Singh had rushed to Jammu and his intervention had resolved the agitation leading to maintenance of status quo i.e. shifting of Durbar offices to half a year in Jammu and another half year in Srinagar. However, bandh in Jammu then was mostly confined to City and peripheries.

In 1968, people in Jammu had launched an agitation against discrimination with Jammu region after which the Government had set up Gajender Gadkar Commission.

Four persons were killed in Roti agitation in Jammu in 1937 when ration system was introduced to overcome food shortage.

However, the veterans even maintained that they have not seen such an agitation in Jammu like the present one.

Earlier during the day, rallies and mobilisation for tomorrow’s ‘Maha Rally’ at MA Stadium, being organised by Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (SAYSS), continued across the region on 39th day of consecutive bandh in Jammu as the agitation, spearheaded by the Samiti, today entered into 62nd day.

Meanwhile, life remained completely paralysed in majority of areas across Jammu region, which observed a complete bandh for 39th day today. Traffic also remained off the roads on highways, cities and towns.

Anger of the youths in Purani Mandi and surrounding localities of Old City didn’t cool down as they continued to subject police to stone pelting despite fresh deployment of Rapid Action Force (RAF) at Parade Chowk and other vulnerable areas.

Reports said the RAF was deployed at Parade Chowk following regular stone pelting at the cops in Purani Mandi, Moti Bazaar, Link Road and adjoining localities. However, the youths, who were protesting against arrests of their colleagues, continued stone pelting on the cops, who retaliated by firing tear smoke shells. No major injuries were reported on either side during teargassing.

Stray incidents of stone pelting were also reported from Nai Basti.

In Digiana also, police had to use lathicharge and teargas to disperse the protesters. A scooterist and his two children were injured in the blockade.

Leaders and activists of SAYSS and their Mohalla and Village wise units today held a massive mobilisation campaign in most parts of Jammu region to garner public support for Samiti’s ‘Maha Rally’ at MA Stadium at 11 am tomorrow. At several places, people took out rallies and held door-to-door campaign advising the people to attend the ‘Maha Rally’ in large number and make it a grand success.

In Udhampur, youths intruded into a Government office of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) at Dhar Road, which was found open in the morning. They damaged furniture of the office and four vehicles parked in its premises. Wind screens of all four vehicles bearing Nos. 4322 JK14, 2364 JK02A, 1845 JK14 and 4134 JK02AC were smashed by the protesters. The office was forcibly closed down. It may be mentioned here that majority of Government offices were closed down in bandh affected areas as they were being targeted by the protesters.

Youths took out a rally on two wheelers in Udhampur town this morning and tried to march from Dhar Road to TCP Udhampur on Jammu-Srinagar national highway. However, they were prevented by the police and not allowed to move towards the highway. A huge rally was taken out with people from almost all localities of Udhampur town and outskirts, majority of them women, children and girls, which dispersed peacefully after more than two hour long protest.

A complete bandh was observed in Udhampur, Chenani, Ramnagar, Majalata, Manwal, Jib, Thathi, Garhi, Rhembal and other towns and rural areas of Udhampur district for 39th day today.

Women took out a massive rally in Mareen area of Chadwal in Kathua district denouncing police for the detention of a local youth, Dalip Kumar of Mertha under Public Safety Act (PSA) and teargas shells fired by police inside an ‘ashram’ few days back. The women urged Human Rights Commissions to take note of the detention of PSA of an innocent youth. A separate anti-police and pro-agitation rally was taken out by the people in Hiranagar town. In Budhi, the native village of Dalip Kumar, people held a demonstration against his PSA detention and shouted slogans against police.

In Kathua town also, a large number of women continued to lead the rally from the front. People from all localities of Kathua town joined the rally which was taken out this evening. After passing through different bazaars, the rally culminated at Main Chowk. People chanted religious and anti-Government slogans in the rally.

Reports of rallies and a total shutdown for 39th straight day were also received from other towns of Kathua district including Lakhanpur, Barnoti, Bani, Basohli, Billawar, Mahanpur, Ramkot and Nagrota. Bandh was also complete in Kathua and Hiranagar towns. All shops along Jammu-Pathankot highway were also closed.

In Samba town, people again came out of their houses this morning and gathered at Chowhatta Chowk. Joined by a number of women and children, the people marched towards Main Chowk in Samba town chanting ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and ‘Omar-Mehbooba Hai Hai’. They burnt an effigy of the Government before dispersing.

In Vijaypur town of Samba district, the people marched from Railway Chowk and after passing through Vijaypur town ended the rally at Canal Road where the women held a ‘kirtan’ in praise of Lord Shiva and Durga Mata. The fast-unto-death by Panthers Party leader Ram Prasad Klandri today entered into second day. Two NPP leaders had earlier been lifted by police while observing the fast-unto-death.

All major towns and rural areas of Samba district including Samba, Ghagwal, Vijaypur, Bari Brahamana, Ramgarh, Soankha, Sarore and Tarore observed a complete bandh for 39th day today.

In Reasi town, the people took their regular rally from Chowk Chabutra to Bus Stand where they burnt J&K Bank calendars describing them as ‘biased towards Kashmir’. Women outnumbered men in the rally, which is being taken by the people daily raising slogans like ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and ‘Mehbooba Mufti Hai Hai’. Shops and business establishments in entire Reasi town and surrounding areas like Jyotipuram and Talwara observed a complete bandh for 39th consecutive day today.

Katra town, the base camp of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district, also observed a complete bandh for 29th day with all shops and business establishments remaining closed.

In Rajouri town, youths took out a scooter rally which started from the town and passed through Narian and Dungi areas before culminating. Carrying tricolor and saffron flags, the youths chanted ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and ‘Omar-Mehbooba Hai Hai’ all along the route.

Shops of minority community remained closed in Rajouri. Sunderbani town of Rajouri district also observed a complete bandh.

In Arnia town of Jammu district, people took out a rally which ended at Treva Chowk, the relay hunger strike venue of six youths, which today entered into second day. In Bishnah town, the protesters marched from Bishnah Mata Mandir to Main Chowk. The protest was also joined by former MLA Bishnah, Ashwani Sharma. Rallies were also taken out by the people in different areas of RS Pura tehsil.

People of Muthi, Domana, Patoli Brahamana, Purkhoo and Barnai areas held a demonstration at Muthi Chowk and blocked Jammu-Akhnoor road for an hour while raising religious, anti-Governor and anti-Kashmir leaders’ slogans. The people dispersed peacefully.

A massive rally was also taken out by the people in Khour town of Akhnoor tehsil which was joined by the villagers of Mirpur, Pallanwalla and other areas. Akhnoor, Jourian, Khour, Pallanwalla and other areas in Akhnoor tehsil observed a complete bandh.

At Rehari Chungi area of the City, people held a demonstration and burnt the effigy of the Government. However, people in City and other areas of Jammu district today remained busy in mobilising support for tomorrow’s rally and collecting food packets for the people who would join the rally from outside Jammu. The SAYSS has set up a target of collecting 5 lakh food packets for the people attending tomorrow’s rally at MA Stadium from outside Jammu City. The people were seen visiting door-to-door for collecting food packets.

Free langars were organised in different localities by the people for poor sections of the society.

Meanwhile, Jammu City continued to wear a deserted look excepting Parade Chowk where exchange of stone pelting and teargassing between protesters and police took place. All shops and business establishments remained closed in the City, its outskirts and peripheries for 39th consecutive day today. All kind of traffic was also off the roads.

Other parts of entire Jammu district also observed a complete bandh. As reported, entire industrial and other business activity has come to a standstill in the entire district in view of the bandh, which was being observed by the people voluntarily with not even a single shop being seen opened in any part of the City and other areas of the district. All hotels and restaurants were also closed in the City. Business markets like Ware House and Kanak Mandi and tourist markets including Hari Market and Ragunath Bazaar were also closed.

All kind of commercial traffic remained off the Jammu-Pathankot and Jammu-Srinagar national highways and Jammu-Poonch road for 39th consecutive day today. All inter-State and local buses, matadors, three wheelers and taxis didn’t turn up on the roads even as there were no youths on the roads to enforce closure of traffic. Only trucks were plying on the highways under Army escort.

Dead, injured & violence in strike

*A total of 10 persons were killed including five in firing while two others ended their lives in support of 62 days long agitation. Seven other persons attempted to end their lives.

* Five persons were killed in police and Army firing—four in Samba town and one at Palli Morh in Kathua near Jammu-Pathankot national highway. Authorities, however, insisted that only three civilians were killed in firing as two persons dead in Samba were killed in group rivalry. Two youths, who were officially killed in police firing in Samba town, include Sanjeev Singh and Sunny Padha.

* A Bishnah youth Kuldeep Dogra gave a new twist to the agitation on July 23 by ending his life at dharna venue of Sangarsh Samiti at Parade Chowk. Since July 23, Jammu has been observing a complete bandh without even a day’s break.

* A retired ISM doctor of Hiranagar Dr Balwant Raj Khajuria also ended his life by consuming poison in support of the agitation.

* A protester Manjit Singh of Bhaderwah was killed in a grenade blast after returning from the agitation.

* Romesh Kumar of Pir Mitha was killed when he fell down from a roof while being chased by the cops during the agitation.

* A Bishnah youth Deepak Kumar was killed in an accident after a trolley turned turtle when the youth was returning from ‘jail bharo andolan’.

* Seven persons, who attempted to end their lives to support the mass movement, include Kamaljeet Choudhary in Samba, Jatinder Singh and Anil Kumar in RS Pura, Jeevan Singh in Akhnoor, Bunty Singh of Nagrota, Sunny Gupta of Bishnah and Rakesh Kumar of Jhajjar Kotli.

* An estimated 5000 tearsmoke shells were used by police and para-military during two months long agitation while about 500 shots were fired directly and in air by police and para-military.

* A total of 300 FIRs have been registered relating to the violence and other incidents during the agitation. About 150 police personnel and 2000 civilians were injured during the agitation. Among the injured were former BJP leader Dr Nirmal Singh, SSP Manohar Singh, SDPO Bakshi Nagar R Chalotra, SHO Pacca Danga Inspector K K Gupta, Incharge Police Post Jourian Balwinder Singh and all cops posted in Jourian police post, three of whom had to be airlifted to PGI Chandigarh.

* During violence, Jourian police post was completely burnt while Panjtirthi police post suffered extensive damage. Majority of police stations were converted into ‘satsang ghars’ by women and remained under control of the mob during three days ‘jail bharo andolan’ from August 18-20 during which nearly six lakh people including women and children offered themselves for court arrest.

* Since August 1 to August 24—the day of Janamashtami, Jammu and Samba districts and Udhampur town virtually remained under the grip of curfew. It was only on August 24 that curfew was completely lifted from Jammu district while Udhampur and Samba towns still reeled under night curfew. Army had to be deployed even in the City, outskirts and peripheries. It was still deployed on the national highways from Lakhanpur to Ramban to facilitate smooth movement of trucks to and fro Srinagar. Army had to be deployed even on the railway track after the track at Ghagwal and Kathua was damaged by the mob.

Chronology of agitation

June 17: Two month long annual Amarnath pilgrimage begins, a day ahead of schedule due to heavy influx of yatris.

June 22: Protests start in Ganderbal and spread to most parts of the Valley in protest against allotment of 800 kanals Forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

June 25: Counter protests begin in Jammu against PDP and separatists.

June 26: PDP threatens to quit Govt, Omar Abdullah asked SASB to return Baltal land on their own.

June 28: PDP withdraws support to Azad-led coalition Government, 9 party Ministers hand over resignations to CM.

June 29: PDP Ministers’ resignations accepted. Governor N N Vohra abandons Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) claim on land. Protests end in Valley.

June 30: Protests, bandh began in Jammu against cancellation of allotment of land to SASB. Bandh was extended for 72 hours thrice.

July 1: Curfew imposed in Jammu after violence, police opened firing on protesters.

July 7: Azad resigned as CM without facing confidence vote.

July 8: Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (SAYSS), constituted to spearhead strike for restoration of land to SASB, suspended bandh for a week in the aftermath of Azad Govt’s fall but decided to go ahead with other agitational programmes.

July 16: Jammu again observed bandh for a day.

July 23: A Bishnah youth Kuldeep Dogra ended his life by consuming poison at dharna venue of Sangarsh Samiti at Parade Chowk, triggering fresh protests and since then began an indefinite bandh in Jammu region which continued till date, though the Samiti extended it after every 72 hours or 96 hours.

July 24: Massive anti-administration protests rocked Jammu as an attempt was made by police to cremate the body of Dogra before sunrise in Bishnah allegedly using liquor and tyres. SP Headquarters and DySP Bakshi Nagar were attached for the desecration of body while a judicial probe was ordered by the Government. Jammu district got three SSPs coming and going during the bandh including Alok Kumar, SD Singh and Manohar Singh while SSP Samba Vijay Kumar was replaced by Prabhat Singh, Additional SP Kathua Benam Tosh was replaced by Rajeshwar Singh and Anil Magotra was posted as SP City Udhampur.

July 27: BJP, Samiti, Bar Association top brass courted arrest on not being allowed to hold a rally at Parade. Bandh continued.

July 29: Another civilian tried to end life by consuming poison at Samba in support of the agitation.

August 1: Army called out in Jammu and Samba districts and curfew imposed after firing left two dead in firing at Samba; many offices burnt and damaged.

August 2: Curfew imposed in Udhampur too, Army deployed on highways for safe movement of truckers as people continued to block highway to stop trucks plying to and fro Srinagar.

August 3: Rajouri, Bhaderwah too brought under curfew after communal violence.

August 4: Two killed, 18 injured in police firing at Samba town.

August 5: Mob damaged rail track between Ghagwal and Kathua, burnt offices and police post in Jourian, several police personnel and protesters injured.

August 6: Army firing at Palli, Kathua, one protester killed. PM chairs all party meeting in New Delhi on Amarnath row.

August 8: All party delegation reached Jammu. Samiti leaders met them only after Farooq Abdullah, Saif-ud-Din Soz and Mehbooba Mufti were dropped from the delegation in Jammu.

August 9: Two killed, 80 injured, property burnt in communal violence in Kishtwar.

August 14: A retired doctor in Hiranagar ended his life on 23rd day of successive bandh.

August 18-20: Three day ‘jail bharo andolan’ of the Samiti drew massive response with lakhs of people including women and children offering court arrests. On last day of ‘jail bharo’, violence broke out at Janipura, Rehari, Akhnoor and Gandhi Nagar.

August 21: Mob gheroed veteran Congress leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma at Bhagwati Nagar, Canal Road but he was rescued by the police. His private vehicles and three cars parked near Canal police post were torched by the protesters.

August 22: Curfew was clamped and Army called out in Hiranagar town as mob protesting against arrest of youths torched a truck and fought pitched battles with the cops.

August 23: Communal violence in Poonch; curfew imposed, Army called out. A youth Dalip Kumar’s detention under PSA in Kathua for pelting stones on trucks sparked off protests in Hiranagar. Three rounds of talks were held between Governor’s panel and SAYSS but the dialogue remained inconclusive as Government side sought 2-3 days time on Samiti’s reservations.

August 24: Samiti extends Jammu bandh upto August 31. Another youth attempts suicide in Bishnah in support of agitation. Congress leader Mangat Ram Sharma says Governor NN Vohra’s recall is not their demand.

August 25: Violence again erupts in Jammu and Kathua districts on complete ‘chakka bandh’ call and ‘self-imposed curfew’ in Jammu region. District administration ordered detention of Swami Dinesh Bharti, who had been spearheading the movement in every nook and corner of Jammu, under Public Safety Act. The Swami, however, remained underground.

August 27: Sangarsh Samiti cancels rally at Parade Ground as militants struck at Chinore. Eleven persons including all three fidayeens were killed at Chinore.

August 28: Agitation in Jammu completes two months as bandh entered 37th consecutive day. Talks between SAYSS and Government’s panel were deferred. Congress leader Mangat Ram Sharma supports Sangarsh Samiti.

August 29: Sangarsh Samiti expressed doubts over seriousness of the Government as official delegation again didn’t turn up for the talks.

August 30: Government panel and Sangarsh Samiti met for fourth round and inked an agreement.

Minor girl rescued from HM militants
Surrendered ultra killed in Kishtwar

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Aug 30: A surrendered militant of Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami (HUJI) outfit was killed in an inter-group clash between the militants at Mir Mohalla, Kuchaal while a minor girl was kidnapped by the ultras from Koti, Doda. Army and police rescued a teen-age girl of Reasi from captivity of the militants after about a month from Damhal Hanjipora in Kulgam district.

A 14 year old girl Zaroon Begum, who had been living with his grand father Haji Mohd Hussain, was kidnapped from her house at Bagan Kot in Mahore area of Reasi district about a month back by a Hizbul Mujahideen foreign mercenary Abu Dujaan alias Tariq. The girl was taken away to Kashmir where the militant was reported to have solemnised marriage with her.

On getting a report, Col P K Mishra of 13 JAK Li and SSP Reasi Varinder Sharma initiated efforts for the recovery of girl. Finally, the girl was rescued from Damhal Hanjipora in Kulgam last night and shifted to Reasi.

Two activists of Hizbul Mujahideen, who had been escorting the girl, have been arrested by Army and police. They have been identified as Bashir Ahmed and Sharif Din, residents of Chasana, Mahore. Abu Dujaan was, however, absconding. Searches were on to apprehend him. The girl has been restored to her parents after medical examination.

A surrendered militant of HUJI outfit identified as Noor Hussain alias Commando son of Ghulam Rasool R/o Kuchaal, Chatroo was killed in an inter-group clash between the militants at Mir Mohalla in Kuchaal area of Chatroo in Kishtwar district late last night. The killers escaped.

Militants kidnapped minor daughter of Ghulam Hassan Malla from village Koti in Doda district. Police have started searches to recover the girl.

J&K situation far less serious than projected: Narayanan

NEW DELHI, Aug 30: Even as curfew and protests continue in Jammu and Kashmir following the Amarnath land row, the Centre feels the situation in the State is “far less serious” than “portrayed” and normalcy should return within “a week to 10 days”.

National Security Adviser M K Narayanan refused to agree that the situation in Kashmir is similar to 1990 as is being suggested by various sections.

“I think the (situation is) far less serious than what is being portrayed but at the same time certainly something that we are very unhappy about,” he said on Karan Thapar’s ‘Devil’s Advocate’ programme on CNN-IBN.

“I mean people have started comparing it with the 1990s and what not. Certainly the situation is nowhere around that,” Narayanan said.

His comments came even as curfew continued to be imposed in Kashmir for the seventh day after a series of protests spearheaded by separatist leaders.

The National Security Adviser, however, conceded that the recent developments had eroded the signs of improvement in situation in the State.

“What is causing us concern is that four years of improvement in the situation, (we) believed that we have reduced levels of alienation, (there were) substantial signs of normalcy in the State. People had forgotten about issues,” he said.

“No major concern other than day-to-day problems of living, better electricity, internet connection etc. Suddenly (these) seem to have been sort of pushed into the background and mobs have come out onto the street,” he noted.

Narayanan said blockade of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway produced certain “concerns” among people in the Valley but there are visible signs of improvement in the situation and normalcy should return in the State within a week to 10 days.

On the upcoming holy month of Ramazan, he said the Government will have to do “relaxation of various kinds and various purposes so normalcy should be round the corner.”

“We are hopeful that this could be achieved in the next one week to 10 days,” he said.

The National Security Adviser said the Government was trying to pacify the agitators in Jammu so that they don’t block the highway.

“In the cold comfort I would say the fact of the matter is that the concern about the blockade could have brought so many people out onto the street is a matter of concern for us.

“That is why we are placing so much emphasis on reducing the agitation in the Jammu region because as long as that agitation persists, the danger of the likelihood of the crowd coming onto the National Highway (will remain)”, he said.

Asked whether the Government agrees that there was a blockade of the highway considering that there have been differing versions, he said “For a day and a half, there were some discrepancies.”

He said the truck traffic had dropped. “If there was let us say 100 trucks going, it came down to 15 to 20 for a day and a half and today it is back to about 85 to 90.”

Commenting on the Hurriyat Conference’s claim of being the representative of people of the State, Narayanan said the amalgam was not the “principal voice” in the Valley.

Asked whether a mood for secession is brewing in the State, the National Security Adviser disagreed.

He said reference to the Amarnath land issue as “transfer” of land, which triggered the agitation, was wrong and should have been avoided.

“I think what really-there was an agitation over the issue of the what was wrongly referred to as handing over of land or diversion of land when actually (it was not), it was not necessary, it was an uncalled for…Mistake.”

Narayanan also insisted that police was not involved in killing of the Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz.

He claimed that there was “concern” among the Hurriyat after the killing of the leader as they also probably knew police was not behind it.

He said Aziz was shot in the back while police was in the front during the Hurriyat-led “march to Muzaffarabad’.

“This is a concern even among the Hurriyat and others saying that who is now amongst us who is trying to eliminate some of us,” he said.

Asked specifically whether Hurriyat knows that police did not kill him, he said “yeah, they will never admit it I suppose, but the fact of the matter is that it was certainly not the police. He was shot in the back.”

Asked who could be behind the killing of the Hurriyat leader, he refused to answer, saying “You will know at the right time, I presume and assure, of who it is or which group is responsible.”

When asked whether he was pointing fingers at Pakistan in connection with Aziz’s killing, Narayanan said the Government does not have any facts about it.

“No, we have no fact at the moment about A or B or C. What we are clear at this moment is that it was not the police…There are lot of things, circumstances… The fact of the matter is that he was not a martyr to the cause that is being made out to be.”

He said had the police been able to do a postmortem of the body, then facts could have been much “clearer”.

“They took the body away before there was a chance for postmortem. Then the fact would have been much clearer,” Narayanan said.

Justifying the Government’s crackdown in Kashmir, he said initially the Government allowed movement of the protesters but when the situation deteriorated, it had to resort to certain restrictions.

“There was a period Muzzafarabad Chalo, then there was a sort of one or two other bandhs relating to the funeral processions. First we allowed a lot of movement across. There was no effort by the administration to interfere with that ..And a new issue comes up all the time.

“When the Lal Chowk Chalo came up and the feeling was that now these people are moving from what could be concerns, worries and problem into really a problem of trying to build up other…Region thats when the crackdown took place.” (PTI)

Remarkable improvement in Kashmir situation
Geelani, Mirwaiz lodged at Cheshma Shahi huts

From Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 30: Amid unconfirmed reports of the arrest of a senior functionary of the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference, heads of the two groups of the separatist conglomerate—Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq— have been lodged at two separate huts of Nehru Guest House at Cheshma Shahi. Meanwhile, remarkable improvement was witnessed in the situation in Kashmir valley today as the authorities granted four to 10 hours of relaxation in movement on the 8th consecutive day of curfew.

Highly placed official sources confirmed, on the condition of anonymity, that heads of the two factions of Hurriyat Conference—Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq—had been lodged at two separate huts of the State-owned Nehru Guest House, close to Raj Bhawan, at the picturesque Cheshma Shahi. Sources said that after a night stay at a rest house in Gulmarg, both the senior separatist leaders had been shifted back to the capital city on August 24th and lodged in the backyard of Nehru Guest House. Sources confirmed that both the detainees were in solitary confinement, with no facility of communication or interaction with anybody other than the security and staff of Hospitality & Protocol Department.

Sources said that Public Safety Act (PSA) of the initial term of six months had been slapped on half a dozen of the separatist detainees who were being shifted from different Police stations to Central Jail Srinagar. Government, according to sources, was still undecided about the fate of the old jailbird Geelani and Mirwaiz, who had been formally arrested and detained for the first time in his 19-year-long political career. Founder of Hurriyat Conference—a conglomerate of about two dozen political and religious outfits—in 1993, Mirwaiz had become chairman of his dynastic Awami Action Committee and Anjuman-e-Nusrat-ul-Islam on the day of his father Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq’s assassination on May 21, 1990.

Thirty-five-year-old cleric-politician has been detained months ahead of his scheduled fellowship programme at Harvard University’s Belfer Center of Science and International Affairs. His PhD thesis on “Annotated Translation of Zakheeratul Malook” —Mir Syed Ali Hamadani’s Persian classic on leadership and political ethics— is understood to be ready for submission. A distinction holder at graduation level, Mirwaiz has just completed his doctoral thesis at Department of Islamic Studies of the Faculty of Social Science of the University of Kashmir.

Septuagenarian Jamaat-e-Islami ideologue, Geelani, who broke away with Mirwaiz and floated his own Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, followed by a rival faction of the Hurriyat Conference in 2003, has spent years in jails and compiled several volumes of his memoirs in Urdu.

Sources said that, awaiting orders from higher echelons of power in Srinagar and New Delhi, officials of the State Departments of Home and Law, had already prepared dossiers and the top separatist leaders could be recommended for detention under PSA to District Magistrates of Srinagar and Budgam. According to these sources, a notification was being drafted for the purpose of declaring both the Cheshma Shahi huts as sub jails on the pattern of the previous one when Hizbul Mujahideen-turned-Muslim Mujahideen chief, Master Ahsan Dar, had been lodged at the same place in 1997-98.

Sources, nevertheless, said that releasing the top separatist leaders after a brief period of temporary detention was still the foremost possibility. Unconfirmed reports, meanwhile, said that the top wanted Geelani confidant and head of the Hurriyat Coordination Committee, Massarat Islam, had been arrested somewhere in the capital city this evening. All those contacted for confirmation in the State Government maintained that they had no such information. They, however, confirmed that Police were still looking for a number of separatist activists, including Nayeem Khan, Massarat and ‘General’ Moosa.

Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) chairman, Shabir Shah, who had played a key role in unification of the two factions of Hurriyat besides some other separatist outfits in June this year, had been arrested in Rawalpora outskirts of the capital city yesterday. Retired engineer, Javed Shabir of Rawalpora, today denied media reports, also carried in today’s edition of this newspaper, that Shah had been arrested at his house. He claimed that he had no knowledge of Shah’s arrest as he had never visited or stayed at his home.

Meanwhile, situation in the curfew-bound Kashmir valley improved remarkably on the 8th consecutive day of curfew today when authorities granted four to 10 hours of relaxation in movement in Srinagar and all other towns. Baramulla, in North Kashmir, was the one-odd township that failed to get any relaxation as some people had gathered and clashed with Police and CRPF there late last evening. Valley has been reeling under curfew since morning of August 24th as the Government had frozen all movement to block Hurriyat’s proposed rally at Lalchowk on August 25th. One civilian has died in Srinagar and seven others in rest of the Valley on the first four days of curfew.

After brief periods of relaxation on Thursday and Friday, curfew was for the first time relaxed for a longer time of the day on the 8th day in Srinagar and elsewhere. Relaxation was however, restricted to just an hour or so in Beerwah and Soibugh towns in Budgam district.

Official as well as independent sources said that no violation of curfew or clash between people and Police or armed forces was reported from anywhere today. These sources, however, said that around 200 people gathered at Rajourikadal and 150 people at Rainawari in Srinagar to register their protest against the detention of separatist leaders, particularly Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Sources said that the demonstrators dispersed peacefully after shouting some slogans and Police or CRPF did not use any force.

Over 70 pc polling in LAHDC Kargil elections

Excelsior Correspondent

KARGIL, Aug 30: Over 70 per cent polling was recorded in the elections to 24 constituencies of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Kargil today. The counting of votes and results will be declared on September 5, 2008.

The intensity of the enthusiasm among the voters can be gauged from the fact that despite being aware of scheduled timing of the polling from 8 am to 4.30 pm, the electorates were seen gathering outside the polling stations of their respective areas from 7 am making it difficult for the police to manage the crowd.

However, the polling passed off peacefully and no untoward incident was reported from any part of the 24 out of 26 constituencies of LAHDC. The elections to constituencies of Silmo and Seliskote could not be held as Feroz Ahmed and Aga Sayeed got elected uncontested.

The enthusiasm about the elections was more among the youths, who had to exercise their franchise for the first time. Even the oldest persons of the district were seen travelling upto polling stations to cast their votes.

A 93 year old man Haji Ghulam Hussain polled his vote at polling station Aklchamal, 93-year old Safdar Ali exercised his right to franchise at polling station Trespone and Mohammadhu (91) polled his vote at GM-Pure.

Deputy Commissioner, Kargil, Satish Nehru alongwith Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Gareeb Dass were personally supervising and monitoring the election activities. They also visited about 16 polling stations including Akchamal, Indoor Stadium and Drass.

According to Mr Nehru, who is also District Election Authority, out of total 78500 electorates, 73500 participated in the elections to 24 constituencies. A total of 223 polling stations including 12 exclusively for women, were established keeping in view the topography of the area.

He said that law and order situation remained quite peaceful except at polling station Kanur where polling process was stopped for brief period due to some unavoidable circumstances.

Since 30 per cent polling stations were in the most inaccessible areas with no communication system, the exact percentage of polling there could not be worked out immediately, the Deputy Commissioner said. He, however, added that tentatively over 70 per cent polling was recorded.

The arrival of ballot boxes from these polling stations will take time of one or two days and the counting will start on September 5. On the same day, the results of 24 constituencies will be announced, Mr Nehru said.

Record tourist inflow in Ladakh in 7 months

By Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Aug 30: A record number of tourists visited the Ladakh region of the State during the first seven months of the current year giving massive boost to tourism industry there. The significant factor behind this was the large number of pilgrims of Shri Amarnath yatra diverting to Ladakh from Kashmir this year.

A total of 49,518 tourists visited Ladakh region during the first seven months—till July 31 this year as compared to 26,680 tourists in the whole of 2007, official figures available with the EXCELSIOR revealed.

Last year, a total of 12,533 foreign tourists visited the Ladakh region but in first seven months of current year the figure has gone upto 18,329. Similarly, as against 14,147 domestic tourists visiting the region in 2007, a total of 31,189 tourists from the country arrived in Ladakh till July 31, 2008.

With record number of tourists visiting Ladakh region during the first seven months of current year, the concerned authorities have been expecting the figure to touch the mark of 60,000 by the end of current month and 70,000 by the end of 2008, which would be highest ever in the region.

“The record pilgrimage to cave shrine of Shri Amarnath this year has also contributed in the increase in number of domestic tourists visiting Ladakh region this year”, Chief Executive Councillor (CEC), Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh, said when contacted.

“This year a large number of domestic pilgrims diverted to Ladakh after performing the pilgrimage to enjoy the rich cultural heritage and witness unique landscape on earth before opting Leh-Manali route to reach their respective destinations”, he added.

Not only the domestic tourists even the foreigners, who had plans to visit Kashmir, diverted to Ladakh due to prevailing situation in the Valley in the months of July and August, the sources said.

The other reasons behind increase in the number of domestic tourists were massive campaign about promotion of tourism in Ladakh in all the metropolitan cities across the country and beginning of an affordable air service.

When contacted, Deputy Commissioner, Leh, Ajeet Kumar Sahu, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), said that it was due to the vast scope of adventure tourism and colourful heritage and culture of the region that the number of tourists visiting Ladakh region has been increasing with every passing year.

“River rafting, mountain biking, motorcycle riding, archery and double humped camel safari of Ladakh are most popular among the foreigners visiting the region”, he said, adding “unique landscape, monasteries and Gompas besides festivals are also attracting foreign as well as domestic tourists in large number”.

The citizens of United States of America (USA), Britain, France, Germany and Israel visit Ladakh region in maximum number followed by those of Dutch, Denmark, Japan and Italy, he further said.

PM briefs President on J&K

NEW DELHI, Aug 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today briefed President Pratibha Patil on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the Amarnath land row.

During the 45-minute meeting, Singh apprised her of the steps taken by the Centre to restore normalcy in the State, official sources said.

The Prime Minister also gave her an update on violent incidents in Orissa and the grim flood situation in Bihar, they said.

Singh along with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister Shivraj Patil had visited flood-hit areas in Bihar on Thursday and announced a relief package of Rs 1,000 crore.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said the two leaders discussed issues pertaining to national and international importance.(PTI)

Farooq, Omar meet PM on land issue

NEW DELHI, Aug 30: After failing to seek support from its one-time ally PDP, the Centre today had a meeting with National Conference following which the party said it wanted peace to return in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest.

Former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and his son and National Conference chief Omar Abdullah had a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh where the two sides discussed the present situation in the State besides broad contours of the agreement with the Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti, a group spearheading the agitation in Jammu.

Emerging after one-hour meeting with the Prime Minister, which was also attended by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Abdullah told reporters that his party was only in favour of return of peace and normalcy in the State.

“Yatra has been and will remain there always. National Conference is only for peace and not for politics on religious matters. People with no base and having vested interests can play politics in Kashmir and in Jammu,” he said.

Abdullah said the land will be used for erecting temporary shelters during the yatra period and removed once it is finished. “No one should have a problem in this. After all land will remain only in Kashmir and no one will snatch it to Jammu or Delhi,” he said.

The National Conference delegation also impressed upon the Prime Minister to remove the miseries of people in Kashmir as the holy month of Ramazan was approaching fast.

“Peace is necessary. The Ramzan begins on September 3. No Muslim will like to have disturbance during this holy month,” he said.

The Centre had called in PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed yesterday for a lunche-on meeting during which the two sides could not bring around a solution following PDP’s reluctance for a unilateral agreement between Samiti and Jammu and Kashmir Government. (PTI)

Rajnath blames Cong for land row

NEW DELHI, Aug 30: Blaming the previous Congress-led Government in Jammu and Kashmir for the Amarnath land row, BJP chief Rajnath Singh today said it is for “that party to solve the problem as they have created it.”

“They have created the problem and they have to find a solution to it as such,” Singh said in reply to a query on allegations of the BJP stoking communal fire over the issue.

Arguing that people of Jammu are incensed at the decision to cancel the land transfer, Singh said the agitation is likely to continue there unless the land is not given back to the Amarnath Shrine Board.

Earlier addressing a conference of BJP’s Legal & Legislative Cell, Singh said it has been a normal practice in the country to welcome any facility accorded to any religious group by the Government.

Singh also chose to read a difference between the protests in Jammu and those in Kashmir.

“While the protesters in Jammu are agitating with Indian Flag, the separatist forces in Kashmir are protesting with Pakistan’s flag,” he said.

“BJP does not consider all living in Kashmir as separatist. We consider the majority of population living there as nationalist, who get along with handful of separatists due to fear,” Singh said.

He also exhorted the legal cell members to file PILs against anybody hoisting Pakistan’s Flag on Indian soil and told them to demand that such elements should be identified.(PTI)

LAST DAY AGITATION PHOTOS

A child chants ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ as people hold a protest rally in Samba town on Saturday.

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in Udhampur town on Saturday.

People including women taking out a procession in Reasi town on Saturday.

Women chant ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ as they take out a rally
in Khour town of Akhnoor tehsil on Saturday.

Women leading a rally in Kathua town on Saturday.

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One Response to Amarnath land issue ends

  1. Pingback: Pakistan: “The Taliban’s Godfather”? « Kashmir the war of Mind and Brains

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