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Amarnath yatra begins with special puja
Srinagar, July 2
The Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Lt Gen S.K. Sinha (retd), flew from here to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath on the occasion of ‘Vyas Purnima’ to perform the special puja today. He along with his wife and several devotees participated in the aarti at a solemn function organised on the auspicious occasion of Vyas Purnima, symbolising the commencement of the yatra.
In video: Kashmiri businessmen expect Amarnath pilgrimage to boost trade. (28k)
BJP criticises govt for being ‘unfair’to pilgrims

Jammu and Kashmir Governor S.K. Sinha and his wife at the Amarnath cave Nation page: Mufti govt’s decision on yatra
challenged in HC

 

Jammu and Kashmir Governor S.K. Sinha and his wife at the Amarnath cave on Friday.
— Tribune photo by Amin War

4 ministers withdraw resignation letters
Jammu, July 2
Four Ministers of State, belonging to the Congress, who had submitted their resignation to the PCC chief, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, in protest against the Chief Minister’s refusal to extend the Amarnath pilgrimage period by one month withdrew their threat today.

MLAs for probe into embezzlement of foodgrains
Srinagar, July 2
A Jammu and Kashmir Legislators’ Committee has recommended a probe into the alleged misappropriation of foodgrains worth Rs 28 lakh by some officials of the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department in 2001-02.

8th century terracotta objects found
Srinagar, July 2
The Jammu and Kashmir Department of Archaeology and Museums has discovered an 8th century human skull and other articles at Lethpora village on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway in south Kashmir.


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Pilgrims ride on ponies during their annual pilgrimage to Amarnath cave in Panjtarni
Pilgrims ride on ponies during their annual pilgrimage to Amarnath cave in Panjtarni, 137 km southeast of Srinagar, on Friday. — Reuters

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Amarnath yatra begins with special puja
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 2
The Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Lt Gen S.K. Sinha (retd), flew from here to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath on the occasion of ‘Vyas Purnima’ to perform the special puja today. He along with his wife and several devotees participated in the aarti at a solemn function organised on the auspicious occasion of Vyas Purnima, symbolising the commencement of the yatra.

The Ministers of State, Mr Yogesh Sawhney and Choudhry Gharu Ram, besides Mr Prem Sagar, legislator, were among those who participated in the puja.

Concurrently, Mahant Deependra Giri, Mahant Charri Mubarak conducted ‘bhumi pujan’ and ‘dhwajarohan’ ceremonies, which mark the opening of annual pilgrimage, at Pahalgam this morning in the presence of a sizable number of devotees. Puja was also performed at the historic Martand Temple, Mattan near Anantnag.

The Governor told mediapersons that the unofficial yatra to the holy cave started in early June soon after the melting of the snow on the Baltal route. The state government by starting helicopter service from June 27 to the cave has virtually given recognition to the unofficial yatra. However, the religious commencement of the yatra took place today. Service yatra is commencing on the Baltal route from July 7 and official yatra on both Pahalgam and Baltal routes from July 15. As the final decision about the extension of the yatra was taken only on June 29, necessary deployment of the security forces and the construction of minimum essential infrastructure on both routes was not possible before July 15, the Governor added.

When asked why the SASB decided to extend the yatra by two months while ignoring the security and weather conditions, the Governor said the board had only been making recommendation from October, 2003, to this effect to the state government, which alone had the prerogative to take such a decision. As the state government on May 22 initially decided against extending the yatra, the board urged it to reconsider the matter emphasising the religious consideration behind the need for doing so. ‘I am happy that the government ultimately agreed to extend the yatra to 45 days, he added.

To another question about the security, General Sinha said he was fully aware of requirements of the security. ‘I humbly submit that I have long experience in dealing with militancy, starting from Indonesia in 1946, for several years in the North-East from 1958 and again for years in Kashmir. No one in Jammu and Kashmir, serving or retired, and a few in the country had such long experience of dealing with security in militancy environment’. He added that last year he had personally coordinated security arrangements for Amarnath and visited the yatra route four times.

Speaking on the occasion of puja at Pahalgam, Mahant Deependra Giri said the people of Kashmir valley irrespective of their caste, creed or religion, had been cooperating and encouraging the pilgrims and sadhus. He also urged all to preserve the age old tradition of communal harmony and hospitality and to make this yatra a grand success.

The Management of the Mahadev Gir Dashnami Akhara Trust, Srinagar has made all arrangements for the sadhus who intend to join the holy mace, the mahant said.

Meanwhile, the police prevented at least 125 sadhus from proceeding towards the Amarnath cave shrine via Pahalgam. These sadhus had left who had started from Jammu yesterday to undertake the annual pilgrimage in the upper reaches of south Kashmir.

The sadhus led by Rama Kanth Dubey were, however, allowed to proceed via Baltal after a night halt at Pahalgam this afternoon, to undertake the yatra. Senior police officials said the sadhus were prevented from proceeding on the 48-km-long trek to the cave from Pahalgam because the area had not been sanitised. They were allowed to proceed via Baltal on the Srinagar-Zojila axis on the road to Ladakh, which does not require much deployment of the security forces. Several yatris have been visiting the cave shrine over the past couple of weeks via the Baltal route without intervention of the police and road opening parties.
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BJP criticises govt for being ‘unfair’to pilgrims
Our Correspondent

Jammu, July 2
The state unit of the BJP has criticised the PDP-led coalition government for “treating” pilgrims to the Amarnath cave as “mere tourists” needing no security.

BJP spokesman, Dr Hari Om said here today the Congress-PDP-Panthers party government had demonstrated “its anti-Jammu and anti-Hindu attitude by not extending the yatra period by one month.

Dr Hari Om, extending his party’s support to the Amarnath Yatra Action Committee’s decision of sending pilgrims to the holy cave from yesterday ridiculed the four Congress Minister who had sent their resignation letters to PCC President, Ghulam Nabi Azad. He said the resignation threat was a “mere drama”.
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4 ministers withdraw resignation letters
Our Correspondent

Jammu, July 2
Four Ministers of State, belonging to the Congress, who had submitted their resignation to the PCC chief, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, in protest against the Chief Minister’s refusal to extend the Amarnath pilgrimage period by one month withdrew their threat today.

The Ministers, Mr Raman Bhalla, Mr Yogesh Sawhney, Mr Jugal Kishore and Dr Romesh Chander, had submitted their resignation 10 days ago.

Official sources said that Mr Azad had requested the ministers not to press for the acceptance of their resignation as the yatra period had been extended by 15 days.

Mr Raman Bhalla told this correspondent today: “My colleagues and I have decided to resume our duties from tomorrow.”

Mr Azad had discussions with the Chief Minister, Mufti Mohd. Sayeed, on various issues, including the resignation letters submitted by the four Congress ministers.

The Chief Minister is said to have suggested to Mr Azad to ask the party ministers to resume their duties as the controversy over the extensions of the yatra period had been sorted out.

Informed sources said that Congress leaders had renewed their demand for parting company with the Panthers Party led by Prof Bhim Singh, who continued to criticise the government despite being a partner in the ruling coalition.

Several Congress MLAs, who met Mr Azad during the past two days, urged him to persuade the Chief Minister to expand the Council of Ministers after two Congress ministers had resigned following their election to the Lok Sabha.
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MLAs for probe into embezzlement of foodgrains

Srinagar, July 2
A Jammu and Kashmir Legislators’ Committee has recommended a probe into the alleged misappropriation of foodgrains worth Rs 28 lakh by some officials of the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department in 2001-02.

The matter (misappropriation) should be investigated and responsibility fixed, the Legislators Committee on Public Undertaking headed by Peer Mohammad Hussain of the PDP said after discussing CAG audit papers of CAPD, on Wednesday an official relase said yesterday.

The foodgrains were dispatched from Jammu to different stores of Paddar, Gandoh, Batote, Mahore and Dharmi tehsils of Doda district but not accounted for in the stock registers of the storekeepers concerned.

Expressing concern over the “extraordinary delay” in taking action against erring officers and officials, he directed the Financial Commissioner, CAPD, to initiate action within a week against them.

The committee also discussed the issue of Rs 7.90 lakh embezzlement case in the department and desired early action.

It also directed the Director General Police to expedite investigation and identify the persons responsible for the embezzlement. — PTI
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8th century terracotta objects found

Srinagar, July 2
The Jammu and Kashmir Department of Archaeology and Museums has discovered an 8th century human skull and other articles at Lethpora village on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway in south Kashmir.

Archaeology and Museums Director Khursheed Ahmad Qadri said on receiving information from locals that they had discovered terracotta human heads at Lethpora, a team was sent there. — UNI
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Bear kills villager

Jammu, July 2
A villager was killed when a bear attacked him in a remote forest area in Doda district in Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said here today.

The deceased Mohammad Sharief of Pogal village had gone to the forest area in Banihal tehsil to collect firewood on Wednesday when a bear attacked him, injuring him seriously. He succumbed to his injuries yesterday in a hospital, the sources said. — PTI
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Protests against 2-yr-old’s death

Jammu, July 2
A complete bandh was observed in Surankote today in protest against the death of a two-year-old boy in the cross-firing between security forces and militants at Chiralan in Surankote area of Poonch district. The incident had sparked off resentment in the area, with locals taking to streets. — UNI
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