Huge rallies, total bandh in Jammu *

24 August 2008
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Despite Janamashtami celebrations, majority parts of Jammu region observed a complete shutdown for 33rd consecutive day today as the agitation, spearheaded by Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangarsh Samiti (SAYSS) today entered into 56th day seeking restoration of 800 kanals of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). Another youth today tried to end his life by consuming poison in Bishnah town in support of the strike while curfew was lifted in Hiranagar town this afternoon to facilitate the people to celebrate Janamashtami festival. Even as the people observed a fast on the occasion of Janamashtami, the spirit of festival didn’t dampen people's enthusiasm in taking out huge rallies at several places across the region. At some places the Janamashtami ‘jhankis’ were also converted into the rallies with slogans of ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and ‘Jai Shri Krishna’ renting the air. After prayers at all the temples across Jammu City, its outskirts and peripheral areas in the night (12 in the midnight when Lord Krishna was born), people came out on the streets in huge numbers with entire City renting with massive slogans of ‘Jai Shri Krishna’, ‘Bum Bum Bhole’, ‘Bhole Baba Ke Vaste, Khali Kardo Raste’ and ‘Leke Rahenge Leke Rahenge, Bole Baba Ki Jameen Leke Rahenge’. As most of the places, the people including women, youths and children danced to the tunes of dhols and drum beat and vowed to force the Centre and State Governments to restore land to the SASB. A 24 year old youth Sunny Gupta son of Sushil Gupta, a resident of Ward No. 9 in Bishnah consumed poisonous tablets in the market at about 12.45 pm and straightway proceeded to Lord Hanuman temple in the town. He shouted ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ before felling down and was rushed to Bishnah hospital by the agitationists, sitting in the temple. He was referred to Government Medical College (GMC) hospital, where he was responding to the treatment. His wife, Simi Gupta told mediapersons in the GMC that her husband, a regular visitor to Sangarsh Samiti rallies, was very upset since last night after he heard the news on television that talks between Government and Samiti delegation have not made any headway. Working in a private factory at Bari Brahamana and having a one and a half year old child, Sunny had even organised a private langar for the people few days back. As soon as the news of suicide attempt by Sunny Gupta spread, tension flared up in Bishnah town with youths and women taking to streets shouting ‘Bum Bum Bhole’, ‘NN Vohra Hai Hai’ and ‘Omar-Mehbooba Hai Hai’. They blamed the Government for the suicide bid by the youth for delaying restoration of land to the Shrine Board. Kuldeep Dogra of Bishnah was the first youth who had ended his life consuming poison at Samiti’s dharna venue at Parade Chowk while a retired ISM doctor too had committed suicide in support of the movement. Five other persons-two at RS Pura and one each at Samba, Nagrota and Akhnoor have made unsuccessful attempts to end their lives during the agitation. The ongoing agitation has already taken lives of nine people-five in police and Army firing at Samba and Kathua, one in a grenade attack on protesters at Bhaderwah and a youth had died after he fell down from a roof while being chased by the cops at Pir Mitha. Two other persons have ended their lives consuming poison. Police, however maintained only two youths were killed in police firing at Samba while two others had died in personal enmity. A large number of people from border villages of Bobiya, Chagra, Matre Chak, Chandre Chak and other villages in Hiranagar tehsil took out a rally on tractors, trolleys and two wheeelers and made a determined bid to enter curfew bound Hiranagar town of Kathua district this morning. Chanting ‘Bum Bum Bhole’, ‘Vohra-Omar-Mehbooba Hai Hai’ and anti-police slogans, the protesters were stopped by Army and police about a kilometer away from the town. It may be mentioned that curfew was imposed in Hiranagar town and Army called out on Friday afternoon after the mob protesting against arrest of youths by police had set on fire a truck parked in old police station building and pelted stones on the cops. The protesters tried to break the security cordon repeatedly. Some youths did manage to reach close to the town and pelted stones on police. However, they were chased away. The agitationists finally dispersed in the afternoon. Another procession from Dayala Chak tried to force their way into Hiranagar town but was stopped by Army, CRPF and police at Pallan Morh on old Samba-Kathua road. The processionists were protesting arrest of the youths by police especially detention of Dalip Kumar R-o Mertha, Hiranagar under draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) merely on the charges of stone pelting. The protesters later dispersed. Curfew remained in force in entire Hiranagar town during the day despite Janamashtami festival. The people couldn’t purchase even items for the fast. Curfew was, however, lifted from the town at 5 pm though, officials said, it could be re-imposed whenever the trouble erupted. People in Samba town took out a huge procession from Chowhatta Chowk to New Bus Stand as Swami Dinesh Bharti, who had been mobilising people all across the region in support of the agitation, was scheduled to address the rally. The Saint, whose attempts to hold rallies at Khour and many other places in the region have been foiled by police, couldn’t reach Samba as police had laid nakas at Jammu-Samba rail and road tracks subjecting each and every passing vehicle to frisking to ensure that the Saint couldn’t reach the rally venue. Despite his absence in the rally, the Swami managed to address the huge gathering through his mobile telephone dialing the number of one of the organisor. People listened his speech through speaker of the mobile phone. The gathering later dispersed. In Ghagwal town of Samba district, people took out a massive rally from Narsingh Mandir raising slogans like ‘Jai Shri Krishna’ and ‘Bum Bum Bhole’. Similar rallies were taken out in Vijaypur, Bari Brahamana, Soankha and Gho Manasan. Reports said the Janamashtami ‘jhankis’ in some areas were taken out today and were also converted into processions in support of the movement. Entire Akhnoor town rented with slogans of ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and ‘Jai Shri Krishna’ as a large number of people marched in the town from Radha Krishan Mandir and passed through Nirdosh Chowk, Ram Talai, Raza Bazaar and other localities in the form of a ‘jhanki’-cum-procession. People in Khour town, also drawn from Pallanwalla and other areas, took out a procession in the entire town which was later converted into a rally at Government girls high school, Khour, where the people extended their full support to Sangarsh Samiti and vowed to take the land back. A massive ‘jhanki’ taken out in Bhaderwah town of Doda district too represented the look of a procession in support of taking the land back for the Shrine Board. More than 7000 people were reported to have joined the rally which passed through entire Bhaderwah town raising slogans in praise of Lord Krishna and Shiva. A number of women also joined the procession, which passed off peacefully. Similar rallies, though less in number, were taken out by the people in Doda and Gandoh towns. The biggest ever ‘jhanki procession’ in the history of Kishtwar, which was rocked by communal violence few days back in which shops, houses and other business concerns were torched and two persons lost their lives in a grenade blast and police firing, was taken out in the town today. Religious slogans rented entire Kishtwar town. DIG Doda range Hemant Kumar Lohia was camping in the town supervising security arrangements in communally sensitive Kishtwar town. Police said the DIG held a meeting with majority community and asked them to ensure their support in making the rally peaceful. SHO Kishtwar Varinder Singh and Inspector Mirza Sultan along with a strong pose of CRPF and police accompanied the rally. Night curfew is still in force in Kishtwar town. Police administration had made tight security arrangements for the rallies in view of recent communal trouble in Bhaderwah and Kishtwar towns, which were still reeling under night curfew. In Reasi town, people started a rally from Mandi, Reasi and marched through entire town before concluding at Radha Krishan Mandir. Coonch shells and religious slogans were raised in the ‘jhanki-cum-rally’, which was also joined by the people from Jyotipuram, Talwara, Pouni and other areas. In Katra town of Reasi district, people took out a ‘jhanki-cum-rally’ in the evening which started from Asia Chowk and passed through Main Bazaar, Dak Bungalow, Ban Ganga Road and Bus Stand. The rallyists raised religious slogans. In Rajouri town, a massive ‘jhanki-cum-rally’ was taken out by the people from Sanatan Dharam Sabha which marched in entire town amidst the slogans of ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and ‘Jai Shri Krishna’. SDS leader Dinesh Sharma led the rally. Rajouri town, which too was rocked by communal violence few days back prompting authorities to impose curfew, remained peaceful during the rally. Deputy Commissioner, Rafiq Ahmed Sheikh, SSP Rajesh Kumar and SHO Mohd Rafiq accompanied the rally to ensure fool proof security. Similar rallies were also taken out in Sunderbani, Nowshera, Kalakot and other towns of Rajouri district, which remained peaceful. In Udhampur town, youths took out a rally on two wheelers in the morning while people including women marched in the town in the evening. In Patnitop, people took out a rally, which was led by Chenani Beopar Mandal president Rajesh Gupta. Rallies were taken out in all other major towns of Udhampur district. Rallies including the ‘jhankis’ of Janamashtami, which too had been converted into the processions supporting the agitation, were taken out at almost all places across the region. Meanwhile, cities, towns, rural and even remote areas of Jammu, Samba, Kathua and Udhampur districts, Reasi and Rajouri towns observed a complete bandh for 33rd consecutive day today. Katra town, the base camp of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, observed a bandh for 23rd day. Few towns in other districts remained open to facilitate the people to observe Janamashtami festival. All shops, business establishments besides entire industrial sector, hotels and restaurants remained closed in majority parts of Jammu region for 33rd day today. Not even a single shop was open in the cities including Jammu City, its outskirts and peripheries. Reports said a complete bandh in majority parts of Jammu region including remotest villages and huge rallies all over for 33rd successive day and that too on the occasion of a grand Janamashtami festival was a clear indication that the people were in no mood to relent till the land is restored to the Shrine Board.