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Shutdown continues in Kashmir over Amarnath Shrine Board issue

Tue, 01 Jan 2008 ANI

Srinagar, June 28 (ANI): Protests by Muslims continued in Kashmir for the sixth day on Saturday over the transfer of forestland to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).


Srinagar wore deserted look as the transport is off the roads. Educational institutions, shops, and business establishments and several government offices remained closed in Srinagar.


The shutdown call has been given by the Action Committee Against Land Transfer (ACLT), a group formed by the separatist Hurriyat conference, to protest against the land transfer.


"This shutdown is not because somebody has called it. It is because the people want this shutdown. We are in support of this shutdown," said Shabir Ahmed, a resident.


The controversy has rocked the state's coalition government with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) having threatened to move out of the government on June 30 if the order transferring the forestland to SASB is not withdrawn in the next three days.


Earlier, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad released official records to show how PDP Ministers had carried the land diversion proposal.


Without naming persons, Azad suggested that the PDP's senior Cabinet Ministers Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Tariq Hameed Qarra and Qazi Mohammad Afzal were instrumental behind the process of diverting the controversial land to SASB.


According to documents, CEO SASB had sent a project report to Forest Department, seeking transfer of 3642 kanals of land for seven halting places on Baltal-Cave and Chandwari-Cave yatra tracks on October 15, 2004, when Mufti Sayeed was Chief Minister and Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Sofi Minister in-charge Forest.


On March 3, 2005, Forest Department had granted permission to SASB for constructing pre-fabricated structures in four compartments of Sindh Forest Division (Ganderbal) and Lidder Forest Division (Pahalgam), stated in documents.


According to the documents, Cabinet has finally approved Forest Department's proposal on May 20, 2008.


Azad also said no construction would be allowed until a consensus was evolved on the issue.


The Jammu and Kashmir Government has recently transferred nearly 40 hectares of forestland in Baltal area to the SASB for 23.1 million rupees.The move drew sharp reaction across the political spectrum. It brought together two bitter factions of the separatist All-Party Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference (APHC) to resist the move.The shrine board's CEO Arun Kumar, who is also the Principal Secretary to the state Governor Lt. General (Retired) S.K. Sinha, confirmed this week that the land transfer was "permanent" and legitimate as the shrine board is a state body.Three youth have died and over 500 others including scores of police and paramilitary personnel have been injured during the violent protests in various parts of the valley so far. (ANI)


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