Samiti 'strong signal' in shutdown

Read more below

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 9.08.08

Jammu, Aug. 8 (PTI): The group spearheading the Amarnath agitation today extended the Jammu bandh till August 14 but agreed to meet the all-party team arriving tomorrow for talks.

The Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, however, said it would not talk to the four-member team set up by Governor N.N. Vohra till it came up with a positive roadmap to resolve the land issue.

Samiti convener Leela Karan Sharma made the announcements on the eve of the arrival of the 18-party delegation headed by home minister Shivraj Patil.

The decision to extend the bandh was taken at a meeting of over 250 members of the Samiti presided over by Brigadier (Retd) Suchet Singh at Geeta Bhavan today.

Sharma said he had received two telephone calls from the all-party delegation for a meeting. He did not identify the callers.

The meeting is expected to last about two hours. The venue has not been decided yet, Sharma added.

The bandh had been extended to send a “strong signal” to the central and state governments that the people of Jammu wanted to take the movement to its “logical conclusion” — cancellation of the revoked order on land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board, the president of the Bar Association of Jammu, D.S. Salthia, said. Salthia is also a Samiti member.

Salthia alleged that the authorities were trying to suppress the Samiti’s movement by deploying the army.

The army today said it would exercise maximum restraint and use minimum force, including firing, if protesters tried to block road and rail traffic.

“I call upon the people of Jammu to maintain peace and communal harmony, and hold peaceful protests,” said Lt Gen. Vinay Sharma, the general officer commanding of Rising Star Corps.

However, if violent protesters broke or disrupted communication channels and the working of the civilian government, the army would use minimum force.

“The protests have been registered at top quarters and the channels of dialogue have been opened. Now it is time to shun violence,” Vinay Sharma said.

The Centre said it would go “step by step” to find an amicable solution and the visit by the all-party delegation to Jammu and Srinagar was aimed at listening to what the agitators had to say.

“We will go step by step,” home minister Patil said, asked if the delegation would hold direct talks with the Samiti leaders.

Asked if the government would offer a proposal to resolve the land transfer dispute, Patil said in a television interview: “This time we want to hear what they have to say. We will hear first and cull out common points and do something in such a manner to give satisfaction to all concerned.”