Shrine ruling prompts Jammu ire

2 July 2008

London: Violent clashes between protesters and police have broken out in the Hindu dominated Jammu region of Indian-administered Kashmir. The authorities have continued a curfew as a third day of demonstrations shut down Jammu city. The protesters were angry over the decision of the state government to revoke a plan to give land to a board that manages an important Hindu shrine. Meanwhile calm has returned to the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says that the decision to abandon the land transfer has placated many Muslims - who argued that it was a conspiracy to settle non-Kashmiri Hindus in the region to change the demographic balance. Hindus on the other hand argue that the land is required to provide facilities for about 500,000 pilgrims who visit the area. Our correspondent says that Wednesday was the first time in nine days that protests over the issue were not held in the Kashmir valley. Communal colour But in the Jammu region, Hindus again protested over what they see as a 'sell-out' by the authorities to the Muslim community. The state government imposed a curfew in the town of Bhaderwah following clashes between protesters and the police. The land row has polarised Hindus and Muslims The BBC's Binoo Joshi in Jammu says that the protests - all over Jammu - have now taken on a communal colour. In one incident a man tried to throw a grenade which went off in his hand, killing him and injuring three others. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - backed by other Hindu organisations - called the three-day shutdown in Jammu. There were protests in two areas on the outskirts of Jammu city, where police baton charged and tear gassed an angry crowd of demonstrators. The army was called to the highway town Samba to disperse violent protesters. One of the protest leaders, Leela Karan, said he hoped there would be a country-wide protest against the decision on Thursday. 'We appeal to people of Jammu to violate curfew restrictions and come out in large numbers to protest,' he said. Police said that more than 50 people had been injured in the Jammu clashes while many vehicles had been damaged. All businesses in the area remain closed and public transport is off the roads. Few people turned up at government offices or schools.