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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Indian pilgrimage dates extended
The government in Indian-administered Kashmir has agreed to extend the famous annual Hindu pilgrimage to Amarnath cave by 15 days.

The pilgrimage, which begins on 2 July, will now last 45 days.

Some Hindu organisations had demanded it last for a full two months.

The pilgrimage in the disputed region requires tight security.

About 10,000 security personnel are being deployed between the state's winter capital, Jammu, and the Amarnath cave, which is almost 4,000 metres above sea level.

Full moons

The priest of the Amarnath shrine had sought an extension that would cover two full moons in the Hindu calendar on 31 July and 30 August.

An official spokesman said the decision to extend to 45 days was taken after discussions between state governor SK Sinha, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Indian parliamentary affairs minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The hardline Hindu group, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), said on Tuesday the pilgrimage would not be dictated by the chief minister.

"Mufti is nobody to say when the Yatra (pilgrimage) will start," said VHP working president Ashok Singhal.

"This is an important pilgrimage of the Hindus with which sentiments of Hindus are linked. No one can stop it."



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