33 days, Jammu still burns

3 August 2008
The Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Jammu: The more-than-a-month-long Jammu agitation for the return of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board received a boost on Saturday when some former ministers and MLAs came out in support of the cause. The army was out on the streets of Jammu but protests continued for the 33rd day. The unrest centres on the revocation of an order transferring 40 hectares of forest land in Kashmir to the shrine board to build facilities for pilgrims. The order was revoked following violent protests in the Valley. Separatists fanned the fear that the land would be used to resettle Hindus and alter the Valley demography. On Saturday, three former MLAs, two of them ex-ministers, came out openly in support of the agitation in Jammu. Former ministers Raman Bhalla and Yogesh Sawhney, along with MLA Sham Lal Sharma, pledged their support to the agitation and said the situation should be defused by returning the land to the Shrine Board. This is despite the fact that it was the Congress-led coalition government headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad that cancelled the transfer order. It is a situation of anarchy. If the land restoration can resolve the issue, it should be done without delay, said Raman Bhalla. Yogesh Sawhney said: Though the party is dear to us, the cause of the people of Jammu is our cause, too. Bhalla and Sawhney said that Governor NN Vohra must go.