April 2002 News

Militant attacks hit Jammu economy

18 April 2002
The Hindu

JAMMU: Jammu is paying a heavy price for the activities of the militants. But, the city has also emerged as a model for communal harmony even after the attack on the Raghunath temple, that too in the backdrop of the Gujarat carnage. Though Jammu, known as the ''city of temples'', had remained unaffected for many years, of late it has become a target of militants. It not only played host to thousands of Kashmiri Pandit families driven out of the Valley but also to the Muslims who faced the wrath of the militants. The authorities had always feared that a severe reaction would follow any militant act in Jammu, but they were proved wrong, at least in a majority of cases. What surprised many was the restraint observed by the people of Jammu when the Raghunath temple was attacked and at least 11 persons were killed. Notwithstanding the districts of Rajouri, Poonch and Doda being volatile for several years, Jammu city and its outskirts remained relatively peaceful. But the situation changed last August when a ''fidayeen'' (suicide squad) struck at the railway station and the Government extended the Disturbed Areas Act, which was in force in Kashmir, to the Jammu region. The Act itself might not have had any significant impact on the ground but its psychological fallout made a difference outside. ''It quickly changed the minds of people, particularly those visiting the Mata Vaishnodevi shrine,'' says Ram Sahai, chairman ,Jammu Chamber of Commerce. The rush of pilgrims, which has been a source of sustenance dropped and trains were running without many passengers. The attack on the Raghunath temple, the first attraction for those visiting Vaishnodevi, has scared away the pilgrims. Particularly, ''Navratras'' have been a boon to shopkeepers here but this time they are sitting idle. Over 20,000 pilgrims would visit the shrine during ''Navratras'' but this time it has not crossed even 8000, says a shopkeeper. Today being the fifth day, the hopes are dismal. The IG, Jammu zone, P.L. Gupta said the militants were targeting Jammu out of sheer frustration.


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