Thousands court arrest over Amarnath land row


New Delhi : Thousands of agitators in Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa courted arrest to protest the revocation of land allotted to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board in Jammu and Kashmir.

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In Delhi, members of the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti (SASS) Thursday staged demonstrations and courted arrest. Among those arrested were Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia and three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators in the Delhi assembly O.P. Babbar, Jagdish Mukhi and H.S. Bali.

Members of the SASS, a conglomerate of various organisations spearheading the protests in Jammu, marched to the offices of the deputy commissioners of police (DCP) in six places in the city.

“Over 7,000 members of the Samiti courted arrest under the All India ‘Jail Bharo’ (fill-the-jails) agitation,” SASS spokesperson Vinod Bansal told IANS.

In Maharashtra’s Nagpur city, over 5,000 activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Vindu Parishad courted arrest at six prominent city squares Thursday.

Between 1,000 and 1,200 activists, nearly 50 percent of them women, participated in the ‘jail bharo’ agitation at each of the six venues, holding aloft the national flag under the banner of Amaranth Yatra Sangharsh Samiti, BJP city unit general secretary Sanjay Bhende told IANS.

The police rounded up the protesters after they blockaded the roads and symbolically held them under arrest at open grounds for a couple of hours before releasing them.

There was no friction or untoward incident anywhere, said additional commissioner of police Babasaheb Kangale.

Similar agitation was held at headquarters in all the eleven districts in Vidarbha, Bhende said.

Thousands of agitators Thursday offered themselves for arrest in Orissa over the issue, the police said.

In Orissa, Shri Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti (SASS) activists marched on the streets of Bhubaneswar and Rourkela shouting slogans and staged protests against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance central government.

“The number of activists courting arrest would be thousands,” state SASS leader Subash Chouhan told IANS in Bhubaneswar.

The jail bharo agitation in the state was part of the nationwide protest launched by SASS, he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parisad, Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh members participated in the agitation. Those who courted arrest included BJP national vice-president Jual Oram at the steel city of Rourkela, Chouhan said.

“The central government is surrendering to the diktats of Kashmiri separatists and we are determined to fight against it,” said Chouhan.

In Uttar Pradesh, about 96,000 activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Thursday courted arrest to demand restoration of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board in Jammu and Kashmir, a VHP leader here said.

“About 15,000 VHP activists courted arrest in three districts of Uttar Pradesh – Kanpur, Allahabad and Badaun,” said Vinayakrao Deshpandey, VHP national organising secretary, at a press conference in Lucknow.

The response in other districts was also as per expectations. In Faizabad district, about 200 sadhus (mendicant) courted arrest with VHP activists under the banner of Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti, he added.

In May the Jammu and Kashmir government allotted 40 hectares of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board for creating facilities for pilgrims to the high-altitude cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The decision led to massive protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley. Its revocation July 1 ignited a counter agitation in the Hindu majority Jammu region.

The trouble has continued to snowball since then with shutdowns, curfew and violent clashes that have polarised Jammu against Kashmir.

The toll in the state in the waves of protests and counter-protests now stands at around 40.