Tens of thousands attend parallel I-Day celebrations in Jammu
15 August 2008
The Hindustan Times
: Mubarak Mandi, the seat of the government during Dogra rule in Jammu and Kashmir, on Friday became the centre of India's 62nd Independence Day celebrations in Jammu, with tens of thousands converging there to mark the occassion. Amid cheers and chants of Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Bamb Bamb Bhole, thousands of Jammuities gathered with the national tricolour, waving the flags as the celebrations began. The participants, drawn from all walks of life, filled the galleries of the Mubarak Mandi complex that is spread over several acres and overlooks river Tawi on one side and the walled city on the three sides. 'I have never ever seen such Independence Day celebrations. I am overwhelmed,' said Onkar Nath, a Kashmiri Pandit who had come from a migrant camp on the outskirts of Jammu. 'Today, I felt proud to be an Indian.' Slogans of Bharat Mata ki Jai rent the air and could be heard in almost all areas of the walled city as the chanting reached a crescendo. 'I shouted it as loud as I could,' said teenager Vikram, 'because I felt that this is the only way we can make our voice heard in Delhi, where the government is not taking our demand into consideration.' The reference was to the demand of the Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti, a conglomerate of over 30 groups demanding the return of the land allotted to the board that administers the Amarnath shrine. The state government revoked the allotment after protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, leading to violent demonstrations here that left 11 people dead. Two people committed suicide while nine died in police and army firing. The moment the tricolour was hoisted by Sangarsh Samiti convenor Leela Karan Sharma, the masses jostled to get closer to the podium. Some saluted while others stood at attention. The atmosphere turned emotional when the national anthem 'Jana Gana Mana' was recited. Sharma exhorted the people to remain peaceful and maintained that the government should take note of the 'sea of humanity' and accept the group's demand. By contrast the official function was listless. The governor's advisor, SS Bloeria, was the chief guest at the official function at the Parade Ground, where the police threw a security ring using buses. Policemen were on the rooftops around the venue and along the roads leading to the ground. Barring a few officials and a few former Congress ministers, no political leader was seen at the venue. The National Conference and the People's Democratic Party were conspicuous by their absence.