Jammu rejoices: Shrine deal done; Valley sceptical | india | Hindustan Times
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Jammu rejoices: Shrine deal done; Valley sceptical

Even the briefly imposed curfew could not stamp out the euphoria in Jammu, as the agreement between the SASS and the state appointed panel became known, writes Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2008 14:36 IST
Arun Joshi

Even the briefly imposed curfew could not stamp out the euphoria in Jammu on Sunday, as the terms of the agreement between the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti and the state appointed negotiating panel became known.

Both sides agreed that the contentious 100 acres of land at Baltal, used as a temporary halting spot for pilgrims on their way to the Amarnath cave shrine, would be set aside for exclusive use by the board which looks after the shrine during the period when the pilgrimage is held each year.

It brought to an end a bitter, two-month-long agitation seeking revocation of an order that had taken away the land from the board and handed it back to the government.

“This is a great victory for the people of Jammu,” said Leela Karan Sharma, convenor of the Sri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, which led the agitation.

But if the negotiations, which began on Saturday evening and lasted through the night, before the delegates wearily emerged at 4.30 am, sparked off celebrations in Jammu, they had just the opposite effect in the Kashmir valley. It was protests by the Valley that had prompted the government to revoke the order handing over the land to the shrine board for temporary use.

The decision to impose curfew and clamp down on celebrations once the agreement was reached, were indication of the state’s keenness not to provoke the Kashmir valley into reacting adversely. However, sporadic protests in the Valley, despite a curfew being imposed there too, suggest the authorities may have been too hopeful.

Though the National Conference – along with the Congress and the BJP – supported the agreement, Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP reacted sharply. “It was reached without consulting the people of the valley,” she said.

“We are opposed to the agreement. But our struggle is for complete independence from India,” a spokesman of the Kashmir Coordination Committee, spearheading the Valley agitation, said.