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Amarnath land transfer order revoked

By Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar
Last updated on: July 01, 2008 16:22 IST
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The government order transferring 100 acres of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board was revoked by the Jammu and Kashmir government in Srinagar on Tuesday to defuse the snowballing situation in the Valley over the past week, which claimed four lives besides injuring 300 others.

The decision to annul the order was taken by the state cabinet which met at the residence of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad immediately after his return from Mumbai.

An official spokesperson said, "The land allotment order has been cancelled by the state cabinet. The government has decided it will not interfere in the conduct of religious ceremonies by the board. The state tourism department will identify as per requirement, places from Jammu to the cave shrine to raise facilities for the annual yatra."

The land cancellation, however, caused a backlash in winter capital Jammu where, since Monday, violent mobs clashed with the police and brought life to a grinding halt.

The forest land allotment controversy erupted soon after the state cabinet took a decision in May last to transfer 100 acres of land to SASB for raising temporary structures to facilitate the yatra.

The decision led to opposition from various separatist groups who demanded the immediate revocation of the order. This demand was also endorsed by the Congress's coalition partner, the Peoples Democratic Party, as well at a later stage.

The simmering discontent and the allegations that the land transfer would lead to an ecological disaster in north Kashmir's Baltel area led to massive protests that continued to shut down the valley.

The situation also led to the exit of the alliance partner PDP from the government, reducing it to a minority.

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Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar