Several Kashmiri separatist leaders have been put under house arrest in Srinagar on Monday to prevent protest demonstrations, called by Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, against the allotment of forestland to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). Transfer of the forestland to the board that manages the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir has snowballed into an unrelenting controversy.
The land was transferred to SASB to build temporary facilities for pilgrims. But critics, including mainstream and separatist political parties, allege that the board has plans to put up permanent structures to settle non-Kashmiris, changing the Muslim-majority character of the Valley.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik threatened on Monday to fast unto death if the government failed to rescind the allotment order.
However, outgoing Jammu and Kashmir Governor Lt Gen (Retd) S.K. Sinha called the demonstration an "orchestrated campaign". "Not a single permanent structure has been constructed by the board anywhere," said Sinha.
Separatist leaders whose movements were restricted include Shabir Shah, chairman of the Democratic Freedom Party, Javaid Ahmad Mir, chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Forum and Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani had, however reportedly left his home Sunday apprehending the restrictions.
BJP state unit president Ashok Khajuria said, "the mask of (Deputy CM Muzaffar Hussain) Baig has come apart. Baig has come out in his true colours as a communalist and a man with a secessionist agenda."
With a polarisation, the Amarnath pilgrimage, which had been a safe affair since 2002, has come in the line of fire. Also all the efforts of the local Muslims who fed and sheltered the Hindu pilgrims in 1996 are going waste. This is the real tragedy, feel the people, who are watching the religious journey becoming a political and communal issue.