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Amarnath Yatra extended by 10 days

Last updated on: June 25, 2004 19:55 IST

The controversy over the Amarnath Yatra that led to the resignations of four Congress ministers in Jammu and Kashmir appeared to have ended on Friday with the state government agreeing to extend the month-long pilgrimage by 10 days at the intervention of the Centre.

Official sources said the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine in south Kashmir will now begin on July 20 instead of July 29 as announced earlier and will end on August 31.

Earlier, Raman Bhalla, Yogesh Sawhney, Ramesh Sharma and Jugal Kishore had sent their resignations to the party leadership on Thursday protesting Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed's refusal to extend the pilgrimage.

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This triggered marathon meetings in Delhi late on Thursday night involving Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, J&K Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ghulam Nabi Azad, J&K Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma, party general secretary Ambika Soni and Gandhi's political adviser Ahmed Patel.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil later asked Sayeed and Mangat Ram Sharma to sort out the matter 'suitably and amicably'. He had also asked Governor S K Sinha to help resolve the issue.

It was not immediately known if the Congress ministers had taken back their papers.

Meanwhile, the Amarnath Yatra Action Committee, a conglomeration of several political and social organisations, has rejected the 10-day extension.

"We reject the latest decision of the Sayeed government to begin the yatra from July 20. We stand by the decision of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) to commence it from July 2," AYAC chairman Ramakant Dubey told reporters in Jammu on Friday.

"If Mufti cannot decide over Eid, how can he interfere in the Amarnath Yatra?"

Such decisions have to be taken in consultation with the SASB and the state cabinet not by the chief minister alone, the AYAC said.

Nearly 50,000 devotees are expected to arrive in Jammu at the fag end of June in anticipation of beginning the yatra from July 2, he said and warned of an agitation if the state government refused permission for the same.

Leaders of the Jammu Mukti Morcha (JMM), Jammu Statehood Morcha (JSM), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party, Janata Dal (S), National Conference, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party and Shakti Dal were also present at the press conference.

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