Finally a solution to Amarnath land row


Jammu : The over two-month long agitation over the Amarnath land row in Jammu region was suspended early Sunday after an agreement was reached between a government panel and a conglomerate of Hindu groups, giving exclusive rights to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) to use the land at Baltal during the pilgrimage season.

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The fifth round of talks between the Shri Amarnath Sangarash Samiti and a panel set up by Governor N.N. Vohra began at around 1.30 a.m. and lasted for three hours to come up with a solution over the use of the controversial 40 hectares of land in Baltal in north Kashmir during the two-month-long Hindu pilgrimage season.

Addressing a joint press conference at 4.45 a.m., Sudhir Singh Bloeria, the advisor to governor, and Samiti convenor Leela Karan Sharma announced that an agreement had been reached.

Reading out the broad contours of the agreement, Bloeria said that the land at Baltal and Domail shall be set aside exclusively for the use of the shrine board. He added that the board would be reconstituted and would be responsible for conducting the Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) from the two routes – the traditional Pahalgam route and the shorter route via Baltal – to the cave shrine.

Bloeria said that the title of the land would remain unchanged. It was also agreed that the shops and other structures on the controversial land would be the responsibility of the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

The state government had May 26 transferred a 40-hectare plot of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board but withdrew this following protests in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley. The revocation July 1 ignited an agitation in the Hindu majority Jammu region that lasted for 61 days.

Sharma described the agreement as the “victory of the people of Jammu” and said the Samiti had got “much more than it had fought for”.

While Bloeria and Sharma were addressing the press conference at the state guest house, drum beats and slogans of “Bamb Bamb Bhole” hailing lord Shiva could be heard.

According to the agreement, “non-serious” criminal cases registered against agitators would also be withdrawn.

Three rounds of talks were held Aug 23, the fourth round began at 8.45 p.m. Saturday and lasted until after midnight. The four-member government panel comprised Bloeria, retired high court judge G.D. Sharma, Jammu University vice chancellor Amitabh Mattoo and Amarnath Shrine Board CEO B.B. Vyas, who is also the governor’s principal secretary.

The other three representatives of the Samiti are Tilak Raj Sharma, Narinder Singh and Pawan Kohli.

After the fourth round, the Samiti representatives took a break to consult their leaders.

They returned at 1.30 a.m. Sunday with all their 21 leaders for the fifth round, which lasted till 4.30 a.m.