Valley Erupts In Anti-militant Rage
25 March 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Angry voices filled the air as Hindus and Muslims came together in the Valley today to observe a bandh, protesting the killing of 24 Kashmiri Pandits at Nadimarg village in Pulwama. Besides the ruling PDP-Congress coalition, the bandh call had been given by the Opposition BJP, Jammu State Morcha, VHP, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal. While the effect of the bandh was near-complete in most areas of Jammu, it was observed partially in other parts of the Valley. All shops, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed, while the streets bore a deserted look in J-K. In Jammu city, attendance in most offices was thin with very few private vehicles plying on the roads. The worst-hit were pilgrims to Vaishno Devi shrine. Many of them could be seen walking with luggage on their heads, while others stayed back at Jammu railway station. State VHP president Ramakant Dubey said the bandh should send the message across to militant groups that the people in the state were against terrorism. 'Yesterday's killings have proved the state's claim of improvement in the law and order situation in the past four months as false,' he said. Echoing his concerns over the law and order situation, BJP state president Dr Nirmal Singh said the bandh was a success. Meanwhile, at least 27 Kashmiri Pandits were injured, seven of them seriously, when they clashed with police at two places in Jammu. The protesters had gathered at a migrant camp at Muthi this afternoon. They shouted anti-militant, anti-government and anti-Pakistan slogans and tried to march towards the civil secretariat for submitting a memorandum to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. On being prevented from moving towards the secretariat, they set ablaze tyres, blocked traffic on Jammu-Poonch highway and clashed with police, prompting them to use cane and teargas.