Caught on a sticky wicket after the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) pulled out over the land transfer issue, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to take over the responsibility of the Amarnath yatra from the shrine board.
To get a handle on the situation after the pullout, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad wants to be perceived as dousing the flames that have engulfed Kashmir for the past week. Three people died and over 500 were injured in protests that broke out against the transfer of land to the shrine board.
As was the case till 2001, the responsibility of logistics including shelter and security of the yatris would be taken over by the government — the board would just perform religious rituals. “With the government taking over the yatra, the shrine board will not insist on the transfer of land either,” added Azad.
Azad claimed there was no danger to his government. Although he is upbeat, chances of securing a majority of 44 in a house of 87 without support of the 19-member PDP or the 25-member National Conference, appear remote. While governor’s rule cannot be ruled out, sources close to Governor NN Vohra said he was not keen on dissolution of the assembly. He has not even asked the Azad government to prove majority, yet, they point out.
People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone described the solution as a "resurrection of the monolith identity of the Kashmiri Muslim." But the Action Committee Against Land Transfer is not impressed. "Till the transfer order is revoked, the protests will continue,” committee chairman Mian Qayoom said.
Qayoom has called a rally at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on Tuesday to press for the committee’s demands.
The Chief Minister said that the withdrawal of the cabinet order under which forest-land was diverted to the Shrine Board would be taken up as soon as the cabinet meets.
The ‘solution’ came up a day after PDP withdrew from the government.
The National Conference, playing the role of friendly opposition since Mufti Sayeed stepped down in November 2005, doesn’t want to be in PDP’s shoes.
And the PDP is categorical that it would not return to the government. “We have succeeded in forcing the government to take control of the pilgrimage arrangements. This automatically means the return of the land to the forest department,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said.
Azad’s hopes of getting support from Jammu-based parties like Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, or Jammu State Morcha may also not materialise. The Panthers Party, with four seats in the Assembly, is pressing for dismissal of the government and imposition of governor’s rule.
A hope can emerge for the Chief Minister in the two PDP dissidents Ghulam Hassan Khan and Sarfaraz Khan, sources said.