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Lakhs march on Amarnath

Srinagar, June 27: Ghulam Nabi Azad’s strategy to pull the men in uniform off the streets today checked the clashes over the Amarnath shrine board land allotment but could not stop an unusual “march of people” across Jammu and Kashmir.

The marches were reminiscent of 1990 when lakhs had come out on the streets at the height of the anti-India uprising. A police officer said he had seen “anything of this magnitude” in 18 years.

“It is happening only for the second time during these years,” he said.

The protests started after Friday prayers in most places, with imams asking the faithful to join in large numbers.

The Action Committee Against Land Transfer, an umbrella group floated by two Hurriyat factions and supported by traders, lawyers and civil society groups, had given the call for the protests.

“We are not against the (Amarnath) yatra and if anybody hurts any yatri, it goes against the teachings of Islam. But we will not allow even an inch of our land being given to outsiders,” said Maulvi Showkat Ahmad, president Ahli Hadees group, who addressed a gathering in Lalbazar.

The biggest procession emerged from Srinagar’s commercial hub Lal Chowk and headed towards the old city.

The marches were largely peaceful. But a total strike was observed across Kashmir.

Official sources said chief minister Azad decided last evening to keep a bare minimum number of policemen on the streets as “their presence was felt to be a major provocation” to violence.

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