Alienating nationalists, pleasing separatists

published on August 4, 2008

NEW DELHI: As the protests in Jammu over the restoration of land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board gained bipartisan support, the BJP on Sunday warned the government  
that the agitation was unlikely to end soon. The party has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “rectify the mistake it made” in revoking the transfer of land to the SASB to ensure the return of normalcy.

BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said that the situation in Jammu was “worsening”. The senior leader, who was in Jammu on Saturday, said that the ongoing agitation was no longer restricted to a particular party or religion, instead it represented “aspirations” of the people.

“There is a great deal of anger among the people of Jammu. Even the army seems to be unable to contain the anger of the people,” said Mr Jaitley. Referring to the upsurge among the people, the BJP leader said that despite blocking off all SMS services, people have come out to protest. He also spoke of the continued atrocities on the media. The party has also condemned the restrictions on media persons, arguing that it was “against healthy democracy”. The BJP has also suggested that a team of the National Human Rights Commission visit Jammu and investigate human rights violations by the security forces.

“The government should realise that this is not going to end, and while we have appealed for peace, the government and administration need to take some real steps to address the issues raised in Jammu”, Mr Jaitley said.
The protests led by the Shri Amarnathji Sangarsh Samiti is now getting bipartisan support.

While The BJP has already been raising the issue and participating in the protests, now even Congress leaders from the region have joined the fray. On Sunday, several Congress leaders have publicly backed the ongoing agitation. These include Shyam Lal Sharma, a senior state Congress leader and MLA, and Raman Bhalla and Yogesh Sawhney, both of whom were ministers in the Ghulam Nabi Azad cabinet. The BJP has already announced a three-day nationwide demonstration from August 11 to intensify the protests.

While the trigger for the agitation is the revoking of the land transfer order, the BJP maintains that protests are not limited to the Amarnath issue. Instead, the party says that 12-day long protests are the result of the pent up frustration, that the people of Jammu feel at being discriminated. The Amarnathji Shrine Board land controversy only highlights their fight against the policy of alienating “nationalists while pleasing the separatists”.

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