Under pressure from protests organised by separatist forces in the Valley, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday revoked the order transferring 39.88 hectares of forest land to the Amarnath shrine board. The withdrawal of the order, in a bid to resolve the 10-day-old crisis on the issue, was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet at Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s residence here after the shrine board decided against pursuing its claim on the land.
The cabinet directed the tourism department to provide for the ever-increasing number of Amarnath pilgrims in its annual budget. Efforts should be made to properly maintain and upgrade facilities for pilgrims. The cabinet also said land would be made available to the department at various locations for pilgrimage along the routes.
The cabinet emphasised that the state government was fully committed not to interfere in the religious affairs of the shrine board. The decision came in the wake of a letter written by Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also chairman of the board, to the Chief Minister on June 29 in which he had stated that the board did not need to pursue its earlier request for the forest land.
Apprehending more trouble after the order, authorities imposed curfew. Violent protests engulfed several areas in the winter capital and its surroundings, in which more than 70 people were injured, including about a dozen policemen.
In Jammu, a series of protest demonstrations were held against the rescinding of the land order. Pitched battles that followed left more than 80 injured in police action.
The authorities imposed curfew in some Jammu areas, when the situation appeared to be getting out of hand.
Meanwhile, Action Committee Against Land Transfer (ACALT) has described the revocation of order as “peoples’ win” and called upon people to call off the strike. “It is the first win of the people of Kashmir. We should celebrate it. So far, we had been observing blackout in protest. Let us illuminate our houses tonight,” advocate Mian Qayoom, head of the ACALT said.
As Qayoom was still talking, Lal Chowk the centre of protests for the past nine days reverberated with sounds of firecrackers. Several other places in the city and district headquarters also witnessed similar celebrations.
Qayoom however, urged the people to remember those who laid down their lives for the cause in the past nine days.