Sunderbani people protest, ‘gherao’ Ministers; block highway

Agitating people conducting ‘gherao’ of Ministers’ vehicles at Sunderbani on Friday. -Excelsior/Bhat
Agitating people conducting ‘gherao’ of Ministers’ vehicles at Sunderbani on Friday. -Excelsior/Bhat

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Feb 23: The people from Sunderbani town today held strong protest demonstration and conducted “gherao” of Group of Ministers (GoMs) and blocked Jammu-Poonch highway for several hours while Nowshera town continued complete bandh on the 8th consecutive day, whereas, newly framed Kalakote Joint Action Committee  (JAC) has also sounded “bugle” to launch agitation from tomorrow.
Today Group of Ministers from BJP including Bali Bhagat -Minister for Health and Medical, Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Sham Choudhary; Minister for Sheep and Animal Husbandry- Abdul Gani Kohli, besides State BJP president Sat Sharma (MLA) and Member Parliament from Jammu-Poonch (LS) constituency Jugal Kishore Sharma paid visit to Sunderbani and Nowshera to hold talks with agitating Joint Action Committee members and resolve the issue.
While the vehicles of MP and State BJP president crossed Sunderbani town without any problem, the protesting Sunderbani people reached Jammu-Poonch highway in the shape of a big rally and blocked the road by raising barricades. When the cavalcade of the Ministers reached the venue, the people started raising slogans against them and conducted  their ‘gherao’. The  VIP vehicles remained struck there for some time amidst anti-Government and anti-BJP slogans. Then the police with tough efforts managed to make way for the Ministers’ vehicles towards Nowshera.
The highway remained blocked for about three hours while market in Sunderbani town also remained closed as mark of protest, with the demand of creation of Additional Deputy Commissioner’s post for Sunderbani Sub Division.
In Nowshera, the BJP Ministers and leaders had over two  hours discussion with the members of Joint Action Committee. The local BJP MLA Ravinder Raina, DC  Rajouri Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary and SSP Yougal Manhas also  attended the meeting.  Though Ministers and State BJP chief gave assurance to the JAC to take decision on providing ADC’s post to Nowshera with in next 10 days, yet  the members pressed for written and firm assurance from the GoMs.
The GoMs appealed to the JAC to call off their agitation but for want of solid and firm assurance from the Minister and State BJP Chief and MP, the members resolved to  continue their agitation.
Bali Bhagat said that they were not aware of Kotranka decision as it was not discussed  or approved by the Cabinet. Only GAD issued notification on it and they came to know thereafter the next day.  He said Nowshera being largest Sub Division, deserved the ADC’s post. The GoMs was  also scheduled to visit Kalakote town and talk to the people there but they returned to Sunderbani. AG Kohli,  who is also local representative from Kalakote, asked the JAC members to reach Sunderbani to take part in the talks there.
At Sunderbani town, the talks with JAC was  held for about an hour. During discussion, Sunderbani and Kalakote people demanded ADC’s post for their respective areas. Minister for H&ME asked them to sit together and take a collective decision as it will not be possible to announce the same for both the Sub Divisions  apart from Nowshera.
Upon, this, the people got agitated and stood up. Some of them started  raising slogans. The JAC members told them if they had no authority to announce any thing for public then for what they had come there to talk. Sensing mounting trouble, the police gave them cover and escorted out of the Dak Bangalow to make way for Jammu.
The people including youth turned violent  and they moved towards the highway and again blocked it at around 5 pm. They raised barricades and burnt old tyres of  the  vehicles on the highway. The protest against local MLA, MP and Ministers again started there. The JAC decided to continue  bandh in Sunderbani town up to February 25  and then launch relay hunger strike. They said the highway will also remain blocked during protest days.
Annoyed over the ‘zero outcome’ of the meeting with the GoMs, the Kalakote people there in the meeting also decided to  go for bandh and  massive agitation from tomorrow.  It said that the market will remain closed and vehicles will not be allowed to ply on the roads. Initially, the bandh will be for two days and next course of action will be reviewed on Sunday evening.
Meanwhile, a BJP spokesman said that  to end the deadlock created due to the agitation by people of Nowshera and Suderbani Sub-Divisions for the district status, BJP delegation comprising of senior BJP leaders led by its State president and MLA Sat Sharma along with MP Jugal Kishore Sharma, Minister for Health & Medical Education Bali Bhagat, Minister for PHE, Irrigation & Flood Control Sham Choudhary, Minister for Animal, Sheep Husbandry & Fisheries Abdul Ghani Kohli, BJP State vice-president Yudhvir Sethi and MLA Ravinder Raina met with the Nowshera Joint Action  Committee. DC and SSP Rajouri were also present in the meeting.
Nowshera residents are demanding district status so as to have direct and easy access to the various administrative facilities for the last eight days. The demand has been fully endorsed by the local BJP unit with its MLA Ravinder Raina extending support to the cause.
Sat Sharma while addressing the Nowshera people including members  of Beopar Mandal and Sanatan Dharam Sabha and other social organization assured that  demand will be worked out by BJP at the party level within 10 days. He assured them that they must look out for positive outcome till  March 10. He assured of equal and justified treatment to all the regions similar to Kotranka.
During over two hour long meeting the leaders of Joint Action Committee (JAC)  put forth their view point. They said that being oldest tehsil in Rajouri, Nowshera deserved the post of Additional Deputy Commissioner.
JAC, which comprised Members of Beopar Mandal, Bar Association, SD Sabha and other social organizations of the area demanded immediate creation of the post of Additional Deputy Commissioner for Sub-Division, Nowshera.
The Ministerial delegation listened to the people carefully and assured them that the issue would be flagged at the appropriate level.
Speaking on the occasion, Bali Bhagat said that the Government will examine the issue on priority and address it soon. He said the matter needs Cabinet nod and assured to discuss it in the next Cabinet meeting. Urging people to call off the strike, he said agitation is a democratic right, but when Government intervenes and assures, they must cooperate and believe in the Government.
Meanwhile, the delegation also interacted with the JAC Members of Sunderbani, who also projected the same demand and said that Sunderbani is the focal point for establishing the office of ADC which can be convenient to all. They were also pacified by the delegation of Minister and advised to build a consensus for a place which is convenient to all areas. They were also appealed to shun the path of agitation as the Government will address the demand shortly.