Protests, clash in Katra over link road

Excelsior Correspondent
KATRA, Mar 2: As the Police used force against agitating shopkeepers and took a few of them into preventive custody after a mob tried to forcibly stop work on the link road between newly developed track to the cave shrine and `Darshni Deodi’ at Ban Ganga, the entire Katra town observed a shutdown and resorted to protest against Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, this evening.
Even as Police claimed that a mild force was used, the eyewitnesses said that some shopkeepers as well as a few cops sustained minor bruises in the clash near construction site, where the authorities had already imposed Section 144 of CrPC to prevent anybody from disrupting the ongoing work.
Eight shopkeepers, who were forcibly trying to stop and work and resorting to violence at  the construction  site, have been taken into preventive custody while the Police has managed to control the situation without using force,” Tahir Sajjad Bhat,  SSP Reasi, told the Excelsior.
As  the new of clash and detention of  agitators spread like wildfire, all the shopkeepers in the town downed shutters of their business establishments and took to streets for lodging their protest against the Police action and alleged dictatorial attitude of the Shrine Board.
After taking out a strong protest march in the town, the agitating shopkeepers staged a demonstration and dharna near Asia Crossing.  Amidst raising of slogans against the Shrine Board, they were demanding immediate release of detained shopkeepers and stoppage of work on the link road.
The trouble erupted around 3 pm when a number of shopkeepers from Darshani Deodi towards cave shrine, assembled at Ban Ganga and marched towards the construction site where work on link road with the new track was going on.
Soon after reaching near the construction site, some of the agitating shopkeepers allegedly tried to stop the construction work thus forcing the Police to intervene and consequent clash as well as mild use of force to disperse the mob.
Even as the shopkeepers of Katra town were not agitating against this link road, the alleged use of Police force and detention of some people triggered a strong reaction thus leading to a complete shutdown in the holy town.
It may be recalled that on February 15, protesting shopkeepers and traders had suspended their strike after meeting the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, who had assured them early redressal of their grievances.
The protesting traders are demanding that the new track should be used only for loading and unloading purpose but not for pilgrimage by devotees.  They have now announced to continue the dharna till the Shrine Board stops work on the link road.
The New Ban Ganga-Tarakota-Adh Kuwari track is having 8.5 kilometres stretch from Army Camp, Darshani Deodi and it will be of helpful in meeting the rush especially during occasions like Navratras.