Kashmiri Pandits Join Protest Over Amarnath Land Row
29 June 2008
: About 500 Kashmiri Hindus, settled in the national capital, Sunday took to the streets and burnt effigies of a few political leaders against what they called “communalisation and politicisation of the Hindu shrine Amarnath”. Youths, who had drawn red lines on their forehead, blocked a road near Jantar Mantar, close to the city business hub Connaught Place, for over an hour. They held placards reading, in red colour, “Kashmiri Pandits still alive… U dare not do that”, “Ethnic cleansing of Hindus… Genocide.. Exodus.. Now the revocation of land transfer!!!” and “Don’t ignore our silence”. They burnt the effigies of former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Baig and militant-turned-politician Yasin Malik. A minor clash took place between Kashmiri Pandits and the police when they set fire to the effigies of Mahbooba Mufti, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president, and another symbolising the Jammu and Kashmir government. The protesters accused the political leaders of communalisation and politicisation of the sacred Amarnath shrine. “The ongoing crisis in the Valley is a well-crafted exercise by the separatists and some 'anti-national’ forces. It comes at a time when the Amarnath pilgrimage was in progress and the Jammu and Kashmir elections are round the corner,” said Amal Magazine, a coordinator with Roots In Kashmir, a group that organised the protest. Ajay Raj Kaul, another activist, termed Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra’s decision to ask the state government to retain the land allotted tyo the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) as “immature”. “The land transfer is justified for the benefit of locals and as well the pilgrims. Over six hundred Hindu temples and shrines have been desecrated and destroyed as a part of a systematic plan of cleansing the Valley of any traces of its glorious Hindu past,” said Kaul. He also criticised the PDP that withdrew from the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led coalition government Saturday. “They are at the forefront of this mayhem, fuelling the anti-Hindu campaign in the Valley,” he added. Kashmiri Pandits warned the government of a possible backlash on Amarnath shrine issue. “This should be treated as a warning to the government that there will be a severe backlash and mayhem of the same magnitude as is being seen on the streets of Srinagar if the land transfer is reversed,” said Pooja Shali, a female activist. The Jammu and Kashmir government Sunday said it will retain the forest land allotted to the SASB. The move came a day after the PDP left the government in crisis by pulling out of the Congress-led coalition amid differences over the allotment of the forest land in north Kashmir’s Baltal area. The Kashmir Valley has witnessed violent protests in the past week, after the state government March 5 allotted 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB, which till now managed the annual pilgrimage to the Hindu cave shrine in south Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir cabinet March 5, 2008 allotted the 40 hectares of forest land in north Kashmir Baltal base camp area of the Amarnath Yatra to the SASB headed by the state governor for facilities for the pilgrims.