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NC divided over Farooq’s merger proposal
Jammu, July 23
There are sharp differences among leaders of the National Conference over the invitation of Dr Farooq Abdullah to his brother-in-law, Mr G.M. Shah, to return to the party fold by amalgamating his Awami National Conference with the NC. A section of the NC was against the move as it has not forgotten the bitter experience of early 1980s when Mr Shah overnight toppled the government of Dr Abdullah.

5 LeT militants killed in encounter
Srinagar, July 23
Five militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed in a fierce encounter in the Lolab area of Kupwara district yesterday in which several houses were also gutted. Elsewhere, three persons, including two militants, were killed in separate incidents in the Kashmir valley since yesterday.

Ice Lingam diminishing fast
Srinagar, July 23
As the flow of pilgrims to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in South Kashmir is on the increase, the size of the ice Lingam is fast diminishing due to rise in temperature inside the cave.

Gastroenteritis claims 2 lives in Kathua
Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 23

Two children died of gastroenteritis in Malhar village of Kathua district today. The victims have been identified as Sabultan and Jameela. Reports said that gastroenteritis had spread in many villages in the interiors of Kathua and Doda districts.



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NC divided over Farooq’s merger proposal
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 23
There are sharp differences among leaders of the National Conference (NC) over the invitation of Dr Farooq Abdullah to his brother-in-law, Mr G.M. Shah, to return to the party fold by amalgamating his Awami National Conference (ANC) with the NC.

A section of the NC was against the move as it has not forgotten the bitter experience of early 1980s when Mr Shah overnight toppled the government of Dr Abdullah. It also feels that the merger will not benefit Dr Abdullah politically as Mr Shah had virtually lost ground in the valley. He would rather become a liability because of his controversial statements pertaining to militancy in J&K.

Certain leaders claim that the idea of the merger was mooted by a coterie that did not want Mr Omar Abdullah, NC president, to emerge stronger.

Sources said most of the leaders of a committee that had been set up by Dr Abdullah to finalise the modalities for the merger had not supported the move. The invitation of Dr Abdullah to Mr Shah at a function at Srinagar had come as a surprise to veterans as none of them was consulted on the issue.

Certain leaders of the NC and former ministers, who were insulted by the coterie when the NC was in power, have been persuading Dr Abdullah to keep away from vested interests that had damaged the image of his government. Sources said that despite the irreparable damage caused to his government by these elements, Dr Abdullah, believes that members of the coterie were loyal to him.

The NC sources alleged that the one-point programme of the “kitchen cabinet” was to check Mr Omar Abdullah who has not allowed the coterie to succeed.
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5 LeT militants killed in encounter
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 23
Five militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed in a fierce encounter in the Lolab area of Kupwara district yesterday in which several houses were also gutted. Elsewhere, three persons, including two militants, were killed in separate incidents in the Kashmir valley since yesterday.

The police said that five militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed in an encounter with the security forces at Tikipora in the Lolab area of Kupwara district. Eight residential houses and other structures were also gutted in the exchange of fire between the militants and the security forces. Four AK rifles, 12 magazines, one UMG and one pistol were recovered from the site of encounter.

The encounter ensued when the security forces acting on a specific information about the presence of militants cordoned off the area. The troops were fired upon by the hiding militants, leading to the encounter.

Elsewhere, two unidentified militants were killed in an encounter with the security forces at Ismail Dori Bahak in Kupwara district last night. Two AK rifles, a magazine and 25 rounds were recovered from the site of encounter, the police said. Unidentified militants shot dead a woman, Haseena, wife of Mohammad Ashraf Dar, at Arihal in Pulwama district. A minor girl was injured in an exchange of fire between militants and the security forces at Kanzdoori Bahak, Chithaybandi, Bandipore in Baramula district.
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Ice Lingam diminishing fast
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 23
As the flow of pilgrims to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in South Kashmir is on the increase, the size of the ice Lingam is fast diminishing due to rise in temperature inside the cave.

According to reports from the shrine, the height of the ice Lingam is about 2 ft only, while its original height in the early season this year was about 9 ft. Under such circumstances, the holy stalagmite may vanish within a couple of weeks, leading to a decline in the flow of tourists, much before the conclusion of the yatra on August 30.

When the stalagmite is in its full form, the number of yatris remains very high without any adherence to the Sen Gupta recommendations. The Sen Gupta Commission, following the death of over 250 pilgrims due to heavy rain and snow in 1996, had recommended that the number of yatris on both routes, Pahalgam and Baltal, should not exceed 3,500 per day 2,700 via the traditional route of Pahalgam and 800 via Baltal. 
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