The second day of the 72-hour bandh in Jammu over the demand for an AIIMS in the region witnessed a clash between police and lawyers, who took out a rally in support of the bandh. The lawyers were heading towards an office of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party when police stopped them. In response, they started pelting the policemen with stones. Police had to resort to lathicharge and use of tear gas shells to disperse the protesting lawyers.
The lawyers were led by Abhinav Sharma, chairperson of AIIMS coordination committee, which has called the bandh. Earlier, the lawyers had a tiff with police outside the state BJP office in Kachhi Chowani area.
They also brought down BJP posters bearing photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Deputy CM Nirmal Singh at various places.
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Significantly, to carry stones, the lawyers used the vehicle that state police had provided for transport of Bar Association members to the high court complex. The vehicle was seized and some lawyers apprehended, said police.
The bandh evoked little response except in Jammu city, Vijaypur and Kathua. In these areas, bandh supporters forced closure of shops.
Jammu district magistrate Simrandeep Singh imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code. Singh also withdrew the permission earlier granted to AIIMS coordination committee for making announcements related to the bandh.
Congress and National Conference workers came out in support of the bandh. Congress workers led by former minister Manjit Singh and former legislator Ravinder Sharma took out rallies at Vijaypur and in Sunderbani town, respectively.
The Centre had earlier allocated an AIIMS to the state and it was being set up in the Valley. This sparked off protests in Jammu with Congress and National Conference claiming that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced the premier health institute for Jammu in his budget speech. They said the move showed that BJP had “sold out” the interests of Jammu people to stay in the ruling alliance.
Though BJP denied the charge, its assurances have so far failed to satisfy the AIIMS coordination committee, which is spearheading the agitation. Despite Health Minister J P Nadda announcing on July 30 that two “AIIMS-like institutes” will be set up in the state, the committee did not call off the bandh. “Verbal announcements won’t do. We want a copy of the written order pertaining to establishment of separate AIIMS at Jammu,” said a member of the committee, adding that the agitation will continue till Centre issues a notification in this regard.
The committee’s chairperson Sharma ruled out speculation that the committee had an understanding with Congress and National Conference. Five of the seven people nominated as spokesperson of the committee are either Congressmen or are known to be close to Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad. The remaining are learnt to be BJP leaders disgruntled with the party.