J&K Protests: Cops Say Azad Tied Their Hands

11 August 2008
The Times of India

Srinagar: Situation in Jammu & Kashmir has turned grave with separatist forces hijacking the dispute between state's two regions over the controversial forestland transfer to Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board. Governor N N Vohra failed to deal effectively with the row that has divided the state communally and regionally. The top police brass was initially instructed to be mild on the agitators in both Jammu and the Valley. The governor is not alone in mishandling the issue; former CM Ghulam Nabi Azad, too, lost grip over the situation when Kashmiris demanded the revocation of land transfer. The agitators were given a free run as they pelted stones at every passing vehicle including ambulances. A senior police officer said Azad had instructed cops not to impose curfew when it was needed. The separatists hijacked the agitation and constituted a group to spearhead it for nine days across Kashmir. Playing politics with an eye on assembly elections in the state, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's PDP pulled the plug on Azad-led government which further aggravated the situation. Adding fuel to fire, Azad withdrew the land allotment order. The move not only encouraged the separatists in Kashmir but also led to a flare up in Jammu. The BJP got a stick to beat Congress with. The economic blockade emboldened secessionists in Kashmir as essential supplies to the Valley were cut off. They also got an opportunity to exploit north Kashmir's fruit growers who complained about disruption in transportation of their produce to other parts of the country. Members of the association slammed mainstream as well as separatist leaders for taking 'political mileage' out of their woes. Association members attacked PDP leader and former minister Dilawar Mir who had gone to meet them at Sopore in Baramulla for chalking out the strategy on Sunday. 'We don't want to play politics,' said Abdul Rahman Mir, a fruit grower. He said their issue was economic and no political party should poke its nose for petty political gains. Our Muzaffarabad Chalo program is intact. We are ready with our fruit laden trucks to march to Muzaffarabad and we have massive public support,' said president of Baramulla Fruit Growers Association, Ghulam Rasool Bhat.