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Protests continue in Kashmir Valley

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
Last updated on: June 25, 2008 15:06 IST
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Violent protests against the forest land allotment to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board spilled over into third day and into more areas, paralysing life across Kashmir Valley.

Meanwhile four pilgrims returning after darshan at the holy Amarnath Cave shrine were wounded in stone-pelting on a bus carrying them near the famous Nishat Garden on the banks of Dal Lake on Wednesday afternoon.

The injured pilgrims from Utter Pradesh were taken to the nearby Hazratbal health centre for treatment.

Angry demonstrators yet again clashed with police and paramilitary forces at several places in Srinagar and adjoining Ganderbal district and in south Kashmir's Anantnag and Pulwama districts and Baramulla, Bandipore and Pattan in north, where the protests and violence spread on Wednesday.

Srinagar wore a deserted look, as all the commercial establishments remained closed and public and private transport remained off roads.

Chanting anti-SASB and anti-government slogans, mobs were on the road early on Wednesday morning clashing with police and paramilitary forces deployed in strength in view of Tuesday's largescale violence in Srinagar.

Security forces fired warning shots and resorted to repeated baton charges and teargas to breakup the protestors, who, however, continued to regroup in lanes and bylanes and engaged the police and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force in clashes.

Hazratbal area on the banks of Dal Lake also witnessed fierce clashes between security forces and protesting mobs.

The police had to fire warning shots and repeated teargas shelling to control the situation.

Nearly 45 vehicles carrying pilgrims to the cave shrine of Amarnath had to be halted for reasons of their security.

Authorities in Srinagar say 20 persons including five policemen were injured in Wednesday's clashes.

South Kashmir Anantnag town erupted in violence early on Wednesday morning after hundreds of people came out of their homes to join the Valley-wide protests against the land allotment.

Anantnag is located on the south Kashmir Srinagar Pahalgam route to the Amarnath Cave shrine and authorities had to deploy more paramilitary and police reinforcements for the pilgrims.

The annual yatra was suspended for Wednesday in view of the prevailing situation in the Valley.

Police said mobs damaged a local hotel and burnt the effigies of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed near the main bus stand at Anantnag.

Pulwama district also witnessed violent protests leading to closure of markets and businesses in the town and its adjoining areas.

For the second day, Ganderbal district located on the Baltel route of yatra continued to register protest against the land allotment with hundreds of locals fighting pitched battles with the security forces deployed in heavy numbers to control the situation.

The Baltel route remained closed for the pilgrims for the second day.

Protests and violence also rocked other parts of Ganderbal district.

Reports of protests against the land allotment order were received from Baramulla, Pattan and Bandipore towns.

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar