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Over 2 lakh pilgrims visit Amarnath cave shrine
Srinagar, July 11
The number of pilgrims visiting Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir has crossed two lakh mark with pilgrim rush continuing as the yatra entered the second month today on Guru Purnima day.

Blasts: bid to scare tourists
Jammu, July 11
The serial grenade explosions in Srinagar are being visualised as an attempt of terrorists to cripple the economy of those connected with tourism by scaring away tourists.

Blasts condemned
Srinagar, July 11
The series of grenade explosions, killing eight persons and injuring at least 37, here today have been widely condemned.

BJP wants Azad to resign
Jammu, July 11
The BJP yesterday demanded resignation of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for committing a “constitutional impropriety” by announcing that 25 seats would be increased in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.


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Over 2 lakh pilgrims visit Amarnath cave shrine
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 11
The number of pilgrims visiting Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir has crossed two lakh mark with pilgrim rush continuing as the yatra entered the second month today on Guru Purnima day.

This has been despite a controversy over Shivalingam and militants attacks on pilgrims, an official spokesman said. The influx in the first 25 days of the pilgrimage was higher than that of corresponding period last year, he added.

Mahant Deepender Giri, custodian of the holy mace of Lord Shiva carried the holy mace to Pahalgam, from Akhara building here this morning and performed ceremonies to mark commencement of the annual pilgrimage. Speaking on the occasion, the Mahant landed people from all seekers of society in connection with the pilgrimage in south Kashmir.

Referring to the lingam controversy, the Mahant clarified that Shrine Board knew the fact that Himalingam had not formed but creating an artificial Himalingam at the cave was not the decision of the board. All board members were of high repute, god-fearing and responsible members of the community and cannot even dream of suggesting this had in the absence of natural Himalingam. He said whosoever played any role in, it had played with the sentiments of the Hindu community at large. The Mahant held that though naturally formed Himalingam had been the main attraction of the pilgrimage. It is of great religious importance for all Hindus where Lord Shiva recited Amarkatha to Parvati.

On the influx of pilgrims, spokesperson of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) Madan Mantoo said here this afternoon that 2,04,178 pilgrims visited the holy shrine till last evening. This morning, 2095 pilgrims left on foot from Baltal and 3500 via the traditional route of Pahalgham for pilgrimage. As many as 257 pilgrims went to the shrine in helicopters from Baltal this morning. In all five helicopters of two service operators are flying in the area and facilitating the visit of such pilgrims to the cave shrine, who could not have the darshan of the Lord because of age or other handicaps, he added.

The yatra commenced simultaneously via Pahalgham and Baltal on June 11 and had to be suspended the next day due to bad weather. However, the yatra resumed again after three days, he said, adding that ever since the pilgrims influx continues to the valley. Several departments of the Government in collaboration with the SASB are in regulating the yatra and providing facilities to the pilgrims.

Eminent persons like spiritual guru Murari Bapu, of over 100 NRI persons led by Ma Bijaya and industrialist Mr I.A. Modi, Chairman, Cadila Pharmaceuticals were among those who complimented the SASB for excellent arrangements made at base camps and en route the cave shrine. They were appreciative of temporary toilet blocks and shelters with hot water facilities at various points for pilgrims, the spokesperson added.

He said unfortunately 27 persons, 22 men and five women, died during the pilgrimage so far, which underlines the need of fitness before undertaking this arduous pilgrimage on foot. Persons with any infirmity should undertake this journey only on horses, palkis or helicopters, the spokesperson advised.

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Blasts: bid to scare tourists
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 11
The serial grenade explosions in Srinagar are being visualised as an attempt of terrorists to cripple the economy of those connected with tourism by scaring away tourists.

Tourists were targeted by terrorists in different parts of the summer capital of the state today.

This was the second grenade attack within the past couple of days on tourists from Kolkata.

Two tourists from West Bengal were killed and 30 injured in a grenade attack on a bus in Srinagar on May 31.

A Maruti car bearing a Haryana registration number was also targeted during the serial blasts this afternoon.

Terrorists were most probably trying to hit the economy of the people connected with tourism in the valley, who had been expecting a boom in tourist arrivals this season.

Their dreams were shattered by such actions of Pakistan-trained terrorists.

Those connected with tourism had been the major victim of the 16 years of terrorism as tourists had stayed away.

This time, there was a ray of hope as most house boats and hotels in the valley had been booked in advance.

Tourists from West Bengal and Gujarat had been considered the backbone of middle-class tourism, but people from both places were repeatedly being targeted.

This had started telling upon the tourism season, with most house boats in the Dal Lake and hotels lying vacant.

A large number of tourists had got their reservation cancelled following the attacks last month.

Not many tourists were seen in the Mughal Gardens in Srinagar after the terrorist attacks last month.

The Amarnath pilgrimage had also been affected initially, but now, the number of arrivals had picked up again.

Pilgrims were targeted at the general bus stand here on June 12, when one person was killed and 31 injured.

Observers said terrorist activities had suddenly increased after the second round table conference in Srinagar.

Political activists had also been being targeted by terrorists, with five persons being killed in a grenade attack on the entourage of former minister Sakina Ittoo on July 8.

European countries had refused to oblige the Jammu and Kashmir Government by accepting its repeated requests for lifting the advisory to its nationals against visiting Kashmir.

Jammu University Vice-Chancellor Prof Amitabh Mattoo’s efforts had yielded results, with the countries softening the advisory as far as travel to Jammu was concerned.

A team of parliamentarians from these countries had recently visited the campus, where they approved an exchange programme for teachers and students.

The Army and paramilitary forces had been put on maximum alert in the Jammu region following the attacks.

The 300-km Jammu-Srinagar highway was under security cover and troops were guarding Katra and Vaishno Devi to thwart any attempt to disrupt the pilgrimage.

The highway was being opened after checking and each bridge and culvert was being checked for the possible planting of explosives.

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Blasts condemned
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 11
The series of grenade explosions, killing eight persons and injuring at least 37, here today have been widely condemned.

The Governor, Lt Gen S.K. Sinha (retd), expressed profound shock over the killing of tourists and others. “These barbaric acts vitiate Kashmir’s glorious traditions and are an attack on the economy of the valley”, he said while expressing his anguish over the spurt in the attacks on tourists, innocent civilians and political activists. He described the attack as the handiwork of those who are hell bent on shattering the economy of the valley that has shown signs of improvement with ever-increasing rush of tourists. “Such acts should also be condemned by those protesting against human rights violations,” General Sinha said.

The Governor conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and wished early recovery of the injured.

Former Chief Minister and PDP patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and president, Mehbooba Mufti, also have expressed shock and anguish over the attacks.

Tangmarg MLA and former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir also strongly condemned the grenade attacks, saying that it was a brazen example of a barbaric act.

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BJP wants Azad to resign
Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 11
The BJP yesterday demanded resignation of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for committing a “constitutional impropriety” by announcing that 25 seats would be increased in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

Prof Hari Om, vice-president of the state BJP, told media persons here that the Chief Minister had no right to decide the number of seats that were to be increased as it was the prerogative of the Delimitation Commission.

He said that Mr Azad must resign as he had lost the right to continue as Chief Minister by negating the Constitution.

He said the Chief Minister had himself announced that 25 per cent of the increased seats would be shared by Jammu, Kashmir valley and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on the basis of their present seat strength. This was a total subversion of the Representation of People’s Act, he alleged.

Prof Hari Om said that the BJP was seeking legal opinion on the issue.

He said the Act did not give the right to the government to direct the Delimitation Commission to increase or decrease the Assembly seats in any region.

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