Jammu anger singes Kashmir ATM Talks hope with parties

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By MUZAFFAR RAINA in Srinagar
  • Published 21.08.08
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Srinagar, Aug. 20: Jammu was back under curfew today after rampaging Amarnath protesters set fire to an ATM and attacked a BJP leader’s house, apparently by mistake.

The violence that left over 40 people injured erupted as national security adviser M.K. Narayan and top central officials reviewed the situation in Srinagar.

Thousands, including children, courted arrest in Jammu to protest the Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to scrap an order allotting land to the Amarnath shrine board. The ATM targeted by the protesters belongs to the Srinagar-based J&K Bank.

The incident occurred in Janipur, where the house of a National Conference leader was also stoned. The army staged flag marches.

Naresh Padha, a spokesperson for the body spearheading the land protests, said a group led by a Congress leader took out a procession demanding restoration of the land to the cave temple’s board.

“Another group objected to the Congress championing the cause and this led to clashes,” Padha said, without identifying the group that had confronted the Congress.

Sangharsh Samiti sources, however, claimed they were its supporters, mostly from the BJP. This seemed to point to a rivalry among parties to be seen as Amarnath crusaders.

In Akhnoor, 30km from Jammu, clashes between Congress and Samiti supporters left at least 20 injured. Jammu police chief K. Rajendra said “over a dozen policemen and some civilians” were injured.

In Gandhi Nagar, protesters torched vehicles and a part of BJP leader Ajay Jamwal’s home. Police sources said the structure might have been mistaken for a government building.

The fresh trouble began last night, apparently because the protesters were angry that government officers were to attend a programme at a local theatre while Jammu was burning. The mob hurled stones at the theatre, forcing the event to be called off and curfew to be re-imposed.

In Srinagar, which appeared on edge ahead of Friday’s planned march by those against the transfer of land to the Amarnath board and the Valley’s economic blockade by Hindu agitators, signs emerged that talks would be held with all political parties.

“It was decided to hold talks with all groups and parties protesting in the state,” a government spokesman said after the meeting with Narayanan. The security adviser also met several political leaders.

Union defence secretary Vijay Singh, chairman of the joint intelligence committee H. Upadhyay, Intelligence Bureau director P.C. Haldar and joint secretary in the PMO Sanjay Mitra were also part of the team from Delhi.