The J&K government’s decision to hand over 40 hectares to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board is again straining the ties between the PDP and the Congress. While the alliance is trading charges over the decision, separatists have come together to oppose the move.
Forest land at Baltal and Pahalgam — base camps for the Amarnath Yatra — was recently given to the Board that plans to set up toilets and shelter-houses for pilgrims.
PDP’s Muzzaffar Hussain Beig, the deputy CM, triggered a controversy on Sunday by accusing the Congress of “blackmailing” the party into transferring the land.
He said Mangat Ram Sharma (Health Minister) and Gulchain Singh Charak (Minister for Higher Education) threatened to stop work on the Mughal Road if the PDP opposed the move to transfer land. “We were left with no option but to agree as we didn’t want the work to be stopped on the Mughal Road.”
The Mughal Road, which connects Muslim areas of Rajouri and Poonch with the Valley, provides as alternative route to Srinagar-Jammu highway that often remains blocked in winter.
Sharma fired back on Monday alleging that Beig was lying. “There was never any condition put like this, nor was there any discussion on this subject of give and take of land and work on the Mughal road… It is a figment of imagination”.
Charak was equally miffed. “By this statement, which has no basis, Beig, who I held in high esteem, has downsized himself in my eyes.”
And as the ruling combine spar over the transfer, separatists are forming a platform to oppose the move. They allege the place would be used to settle non-state subjects to change the demographic character of Kashmir.
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq sought to join hands with Syed Ali Shah Geelani to launch a resistance campaign. He held a meeting with traders, hoteliers, travel agents and leaders of government employees’ groups to seek their suggestions to counter the government and the Board’s move.
Former president of the Kashmir High Court Bar Association Mian Abdul Qayoom also called a meeting of separatist politicians and academicians to form a joint response against the government and the Board.