Land Transfer Singes Kashmir

24 June 2008
The Hindustan Times

Srinagar: Over 80 people, including at least 30 police and CRPF men, were injured in clashes after protests over the transfer of forest land to the Amarnath shrine trust exploded into violent streetfighting in Srinagar and parts of Ganderbal district in the Kashmir valley on Tuesday. An impromptu strike to protest the death of a demonstrator in Monday’s police firing shut down Srinagar. Mobs roamed the streets, pelting security forces with stones, provoking baton charges and firing of tear gas. Three police vans and a fire truck were damaged, and some structures at the Idgah ground were razed. An estimated 15,000 people marched with the body of Feroz Ahmad Rah who was killed by a police bullet on Monday. Hundreds of lawyers took out a separate procession through the Civil Lines area, shouting slogans against the land transfer. In Ganderbal, police fired several rounds at protesters, eyewitnesses said. PTI reported an abortive bid to storm the residence of Forest Minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal. Authorities had last week announced the handing over of nearly 100 acres of forest land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board to erect temporary structures for pilgrims. Protesters fear the structures will ultimately develop into full-fledged settlements housing ‘outsiders’. The yatra was suspended temporarily on Tuesday after a part of a glacier caved in at Sangam en route.