Amarnath land issue resolved, protest off

Amarnath land issue resolved, protest off
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First Published: Mon, Sep 01 2008. 12 03 AM IST
Updated: Mon, Sep 01 2008. 12 03 AM IST
Jammu: Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir called off their two month protest after the government allowed them temporary use of land at the centre of a religious row for an annual pilgrimage, officials said on Sunday.
At least 38 people have been killed so far and more than 1,000 wounded in violence in Jammu and Kashmir, pitting Hindus in Jammu against Muslims in the Kashmir Valley.
The dispute began over a piece of land near a Hindu shrine, but snowballed into some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations in Muslim-majority Kashmir since an insurgency broke out in 1989. Authorities imposed a curfew in many areas after briefly relaxing it earlier in the day, as protesters clashed with police in Srinagar.
At least six people were wounded when police fired rubber bullets, lobbed tear gas shells and used batons to disperse hundreds of demonstrators.
On Sunday, officials and Hindu protesters reached an agreement to use the disputed land to build temporary shelters, ending protests in Jammu city. “We are temporarily suspending our strike,” Leela Karan Sharma, a protest leader said, as people burst fire crackers in the streets to celebrate the agreement.
But authorities imposed a curfew in Jammu city to prevent any retaliatory violence and more rallies.
The dispute began in June after the state government promised to give land to a trust that runs Amarnath, a cave shrine visited by Hindu pilgrims. Muslims were enraged at the decision, forcing the government to change its mind.
Hindus in Jammu, angered by the government u-turn, attacked lorries carrying supplies to the Kashmir Valley and blocked the region’s highway. Challenging the blockade, Muslims took to the streets in Kashmir and clashed with police as separatists united to launch some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations in Kashmir.
In the past three weeks, the police shot dead at least 30 protesters and more than 600 were wounded in clashes, as authorities struggled to restore order.
Sheikh Mushtaq in Srinagar contributed to this story .
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First Published: Mon, Sep 01 2008. 12 03 AM IST