Friday, July 14, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Farooq puts off Delhi visit
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, July 13 — Describing the Prime Minister’s talk offer on autonomy as a “positive development”, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said here today that the Centre had “appreciated the importance of discussions on this vital issue.”

The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, on Tuesday here had offered Dr Farooq a dialogue on autonomy during his visit to the valley to attend the funeral of Begum Akbar Jehan, mother of the Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister, who had earlier announced to visit New Delhi on Saturday in response to the offer, today decided to postpone the tour. He will visit the Capital next week, an official spokesman said here.

He said in view of the demise of his mother, he was not in a position to go to Delhi as his presence was required at home.

However, the National Conference Working Committee’s inconclusive meeting would be resumed here on Saturday as scheduled earlier. The first session of the meeting was held on Monday. But due to prolonged discussions, it was extended by a day and was scheduled to be resumed on Tuesday. It could not be held due to the death of Begum Akbar Jehan on Tuesday morning.

Expressing optimism over the autonomy issue following the Prime Minister’s offer, the Chief Minister said he would clear unfounded apprehensions on autonomy during his meeting with the Prime Minister. He was addressing a rally organised by the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference here to pay homage to the 1931 martyrs. “We do not want to weaken the country. We only want restoration of our dignity”, he said.

The Chief Minister said an awareness campaign all over the country should have been launched immediately after tabling of the autonomy report in the state legislature. This could have helped remove misunderstanding in any quarter. The report sent to the Centre 15 months earlier contained nothing that would weaken the ties between the state and the Centre. “An orchestrated misinformation tirade has been launched to project that the report is a step forward in taking Kashmir away from India.”


3000 Amarnath pilgrims reach Pahalgam
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, July 13 — The first batch of over 3000 pilgrims arrived at Pahalgam, the base camp for the annual Amarnath yatra, this evening. Several others who started from Jammu for the pilgrimage, stayed at Khannabal as the movement of vehicles carrying pilgrims was not allowed after 6 p.m. from the transit camp at Khannabal.

As many as 3500 pilgrims will have first darshan on July 16. They are scheduled to leave Pahalgam tomorrow morning. The movement of the pilgrims from Chandanwari, 16 km from Pahalgam, wherefrom the 48-km trek to the holy cave starts, will be regulated and no pilgrims would be allowed from Chandanwari after 3 p.m. every day.

Various government departments have made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the yatra, which will continue till August 15 when it concludes coinciding with Raksha Bandhan.

According to officials, 2700 pilgrims would be allowed from Pahalgam-Chandanwari for the first halt at Sheshnag every day, while remaining 700 yatris would be allowed to proceed via Baltal route.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made to make the smooth conduct of the yatra from Khannabal to Amarnath.

According to an official estimate at least 1.20 lakh pilgrims are expected to visit the cave shrine this year. Last year over 1.50 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine.

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