The spectre of the Amarnath land row returned to Jammu on Monday, the second day of a bandh called by the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti.
A 35-year-old man attempted self-immolation on the Jammu- Pathankote highway, complaining that the land issue was still unresolved. Jaswant Singh, a resident of Ghagwal, a town 50 km southwest of Jammu, wrapped himself in gunny bags, poured kerosene over himself and set himself ablaze. He was rushed to hospital where doctors said he had received 75 per cent burns and required specialized treatment. An Indian Air Force aircraft is being arranged to airlift him to PGI Chandigarh.
The incident took place at around 8.30 in the morning. Jaswant told his friend, Samiti activist Rashpal Singh, that he had got the “divine word” to do something to resolve the land issue.
The Samiti, which had led a 62-day-long agitation from July 1 for restoration of the land to the shrine board, had signed a pact with the government in which the latter had agreed to set aside the land for exclusive use of the shrine board. But the order is yet to be issued.
The Samiti also wanted to hold a function on Saturday to honour the families of those killed during the stir but was denied permission to do so in the venue of its choice — a government-run auditorium. This sparked fresh clashes and a 48-hour bandh was called, which ended on Monday evening.
“The government has not issued a formal order to restore land to the temple trust despite an agreement more than three weeks ago. I need to do something,” Rashpal recalled Jaswant telling him. He says he saw Jaswant come out of his vegetable shop, raising slogans and then set himself ablaze.
There were several self-immolation bids by Amarnath protesters during the stir in Jammu. Two of those protesters lost their lives.