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J A M M U   &   K A S H M I R

Cong Ministers protest against ‘inadequate’ security
Jammu, July 20
The ministers belonging to the Congress party in the Mufti-led coalition government have protested against poor security cover provided to them by the Jammu and Kashmir government and have urged the Chief Minister to take action in this matter.

PM, Sonia call up J&K Dy CM
Srinagar, July 20
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have condemned yesterday’s attack by militants in Anantnag district, in which five persons were killed and 40 injured.

Chances of unity between APHC factions recede
Jammu, July 20
With the setting up of party headquarters at Raj Bagh in Srinagar Syed Ali Shah Geelani has slammed doors of reconciliation with the rival faction of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference.

Weather plays spoilsport for Amarnath yatris
Pony owners wait for customers near the Amarnath shrineSrinagar, July 20
While the movement of Amarnath pilgrims from Jammu was suspended due to bad weather conditions on the seventh day of the official yatra today, the number of pilgrims who arrived in the valley till last evening has gone up to 46,695. The movement of yatris had been suspended due to heavy rain and snow in the region.

Pony owners wait for customers near the Amarnath shrine. — Photo by Amin War





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2 militants killed
Srinagar, July 20
Security forces shot dead two militants in an encounter in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said here today. Security forces shot dead two militants in an encounter in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said here today. The sources said two unidentified ultras were killed after a fierce gunbattle which lasted nearly five hours, in a village near Bijbehara, 42 km from here, in Anantnag district. Two AK rifles, two magazines and some explosives were seized from the site of encounter, the sources said. — PTI

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Cong Ministers protest against ‘inadequate’ security
Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 20
The ministers belonging to the Congress party in the Mufti-led coalition government have protested against poor security cover provided to them by the Jammu and Kashmir government and have urged the Chief Minister to take action in this matter.

Their protest has come following second militant attack on Deputy Chief Minister, Mangat Ram Sharma, in the Kashmir valley. Two ministers were injured in the attack, while a chief engineer and private secretary of a minister were among the five persons killed in the attack.

The Congress party has taken serious note of the security lapse at the function in which Mr Sharma, Mr Sharief Niaz, Power Minister and Mr G.A. Mir, PWD Minister, all of the Congress, were participating.

There were conflicting versions about the blast in Karpan village in south Kashmir. While two ministers claimed that it was an IED concealed under the stage, the police has said that it was grenade attack.

Mr Niaz told The Tribune on the telephone that the explosive was an IED concealed under the stage constructed two days ago. The security agencies failed to comb the area before the ministers reached there.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi, talked to Mr Sharma on the telephone this morning and expressed concern over the attack.

It is learnt that the Congress ministers have complained to the Mufti that they were being discriminated against in the matter of security, while the ministers belonging to the PDP were provided extra security.

This was second attack on Mr Sharma in one week. Earlier attack came in the heart of the Srinagar city during inauguration of a flyover.

Sources said that the Chief Minister has instructed the DGP to review the security of the ministers.

This is not the first time that Congress ministers were targeted. Former Health Minister, Mr Lal Singh, was attacked twice in Doda district during election campaign for the Lok Sabha. Mr Sat Mahajan, a Himachal minister, who is the Congress observer for J&K, had written to the Mufti to provide adequate security to the ministers belonging to the Congress.

Another Congress minister, Mr Yogesh Sawhney, recently accused the state government of exposing him and his other colleague minister, Gharu Ram, along with their families to risk when they were left behind at the Amarnath shrine by the government helicopter. They had to spend the night there in the cold without security.

A minister was shot from point-blank range by terrorists during the National Conference regime while he was addressing a rally during Assembly elections.
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PM, Sonia call up J&K Dy CM
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 20
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have condemned yesterday’s attack by militants in Anantnag district, in which five persons were killed and 40 injured.

An official spokesperson said the Prime Minister and the Congress president today spoke to Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma who had a providential escape along with two of his ministerial colleagues. Mr Sharma told the Prime Minister and the Congress chief that while their visit to the constituency of Mr Ghulam Ahmad Mir was welcomed by people of the area, the elements who felt threatened by the increasing people’s support to the political leadership planned the attack.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi asked Mr Sharma to organise relief measures for the affected families. She enquired about the quantum of relief that could be organised from Delhi for victims.

Meanwhile the condition of one of the injured admitted to the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, is stated to be critical.

The Governor, Lt-Gen S.K. Sinha (retd), visited the institute today to enquire about the health of the victims.
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Chances of unity between APHC factions recede
Our correspondent

Jammu, July 20
With the setting up of party headquarters at Raj Bagh in Srinagar Syed Ali Shah Geelani has slammed doors of reconciliation with the rival faction of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC).

This development has prompted the APHC, faction led by Moulvi Abbas Ansari, to increase efforts to woo those belonging to the Itihadi Force comprising the JKLF, the Democratic Freedom Party, the Peoples’ League and the Jamait-e-Islami. It wants to project itself as the largest conglomerate of separatist groups to make Delhi resume talks with it.

For this Maulvi Umer Farooq, Kashmir Mirwaiz and senior APHC leader, had several sittings with various leaders of the Itihadi Force.

Maulvi Abbas Ansari said today “I am hopeful Maulvi Farooq will succeed in uniting major groups of political organisations.”

He said “unity was necessary when we have to talk to Delhi.We do not want to resume talks with the Centre with different demands and solutions.”

“If different groups speak in different voices it will give a chance to Delhi to abandon the parleys,” he said.

What seems to have given rise to optimism among APHC leaders is the failure of talks the JKLF and Democratic Freedom Party Chief, Shabir Ahmed Shah, had with Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Also, Mr Geelani’s four representatives had a number of sittings with the representatives of the Jamait-e-Islami. In fact Mr Geelani wanted either to return to the fold of the Jamait-e-Islami or seek its support for his faction of the APHC.

Since at present moderates dominate the show in the Jamait-e-Islami its Amir, Mr Nazir Ahmed Kashani, had no difficulty in refusing his support to Mr Geelani.

Meanwhile, the Hizb Islami has asked separatists either to “unite” or quit politics.”

As the race between leaders of rival factions of the APHC for wooing groups to their folds has assumed new dimensions the Union Home Ministry is keeping close watch on day-to-day developments in separatists camps. And when it is convinced that a conglomerate that has support of sizeable number of people dates for third round of talks will be announced.
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Weather plays spoilsport for Amarnath yatris
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 20
While the movement of Amarnath pilgrims from Jammu was suspended due to bad weather conditions on the seventh day of the official yatra today, the number of pilgrims who arrived in the valley till last evening has gone up to 46,695.

The movement of yatris had been suspended due to heavy rain and snow in the region. It was snowing till 2 pm this afternoon at the high-altitude Mmahagunas Top on the Pahalgam-cave trek. Pahalgam, the base camp of the yatra, witnessed rain today. Amid bad weather conditions, over 15,000 pilgrims had crossed Sadhu Padaw, official sources here said.

Despite restrictions imposed by the J&K Government, about 1.20 lakh pilgrims have so far visited the holy shrine of Amarnath in Kashmir, though officially the figure was around 17,000.

The pilgrimage officially started on July 15, but a large number of devotees had started pouring at the cave shrine, situated at a height of 3,962 m, a month earlier when the state government and the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, headed by the Governor, were locked in a tussle over the duration of the pilgrimage.

Though the state government was allowing 3500 pilgrims to proceed to the shrine every day, the number of those unofficially managing to get in was much more.

Over one lakh pilgrims had visited the shrine even before the ‘yatra’ was officially thrown open on Tuesday last. As many as 78,000 pilgrims are reported to have visited the cave shrine till July 18 from the Baltal route and 24,000 via Pahalgam. The highest number of 15,438 pilgrims visited the shrine in a single day on July 18.

Ten persons have so far died during the pilgrimage.

With the increasing number of pilgrims visiting the shrine each day, the authorities were faced with the problem of the ice lingam of lord Shiva melting at a fast speed. It appeared difficult to preserve it till August 30 when the holy mace would reach the shrine from Srinagar.

Due the heat generated by the visit of so many persons and also due summers, the ice lingam has got reduced by about 4 feet within 18 days. It was about 10 feet high when the Governor, Lieut Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha, visited the cave on July 2. But was now had got reduced to 6 feet.

Functionaries of the shrine board were worried whether the ice lingam would last till next month. A functionary of the board said that the lingam might crumble any time as it was melting at quite a high speed.

The shrine board has sought help of the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) to preserve the ice lingam that is naturally formed inside the cave every year.

Without tampering with the natural process of formation of the ice lingam, the authorities are devising means to maintain the floor temperature within the shrine between -5°C to -15°C. So that the lingam could be preserved for a longer time and the pilgrims do not have to return disappointed.

Although the duration of the pilgrimage has been extended to 45 days by the state government following strong criticism from various religious organisations, but the local authorities have not allowed the shrine board to install the prefabricated insulated shelters that were procured for the comfort of pilgrims. The district authorities have, however, reportedly allowed the locals to set up tents to earn a handsome amount from the pilgrims.

The police and other officials at Baltal reportedly seized about three truckloads of material that was being transported to the shrine by the board to make the visit comfortable for the pilgrims.

Meanwhile, Mr Rajinder Sharma, president of the Amarnath Shrine Welfare Organisation, has demanded that the government should not allow helicopters to land near the cave shrine and burning of cooking gas should be banned there so as to preserve the ice lingam for a longer period.

He said that the photographers should also not be allowed to use flashguns inside the cave shrine as these generated a lot of heat.
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