The government will make all efforts to end a road blockade by Hindu activists in India's Jammu and Kashmir state, federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil said Sunday.
The main arterial road that connects the state's summer capital Srinagar with winter capital Jammu in the south has been blockaded for two weeks by Hindu hardline activists, disrupting the supply of essential items into the area and the transport of fruit out of it, the dpa reported.
The protestors are demanding that government land should be allotted to the board that runs an annual pilgrimage to the Hindu cave shrine of Amarnath in the high Himalayas.
A government order granting the land to the board to build rest rooms and toilets for pilgrims was cancelled earlier this month after protests by Kashmiri Muslims.
After a meeting of senior leaders of major national and state political parties in Srinagar on Sunday, Patil told reporters that no one would be allowed to block the national highway and those who did would be dealt with firmly.
Muslim separatist leaders had earlier described the blockade as an act of aggression as it was cutting off essential supplies to the Kashmir valley and ruining fruit growers.
A forum of separatist organizations had announced on Saturday that they would take vehicles on an alternative route through Pakistan- administered Kashmir if the blockade continued.
Kashmir, a region disputed between India and Pakistan, is divided into two parts, one administered by Pakistan and the other by India.
The two countries have fought two wars over the disputed region but are currently engaged in a dialogue to resolve all contentious issues including Kashmir.
Thirty trucks of fruits left Srinagar for Jammu on Sunday soon after Patil's press briefing under heavy army escort.
"There will be no losses for fruit growers in Kashmir," Patil said at his press briefing, adding that they would be compensated. "Don't go by the other road, it is not right," he said.
The team of all-party leaders had visited Jammu on Saturday on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's initiative, but its talks with the leaders of the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, the organization spearheading the agitation for land for the shrine, failed to resolve the impasse.
The protest leaders said they would continue with talks but would also continue their agitation.
"We will have to see how to deal with the land issue. We will definitely make efforts that it is resolved in a manner which does not hurt the sentiments of the people of Jammu as well as the people of Kashmir," Patil said, urging people not to use the issue to create a communal or regional divide.
He said the Amarnath pilgrimage would continue and that all parties at the meeting felt that communal harmony should not be disturbed.
More than 18 people have died and scores have been injured in protests relating to the land row.