Shrine fire fuels clashes in Srinagar
At least 55 people, including 10 policemen and 15 fire fighting personnel, were injured in clashes after a fire gutted the 300-year-old shrine of ‘Peer Dastageer Sahib’, patronised by Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits alike, at Khanyar in the old city here on Monday.
Reports said the fire broke out around 6.30 am due to a suspected short circuit at one of the minarets and engulfed the whole shrine within a short time.
However, Sajada Nasheen of the shrine said the holy relic of the saint, taburuk and manuscripts of the Quran were safe in his custody. The shrine contained holy relics of the revered saint, Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani Bagdadi, and other Muslim saints.
The shrine is thronged by people from across the valley on the annual Urs every year to mark the birth anniversary of the 11th century patron saint Jeelani, popularly known as Peer Dastgeer Sahib or Ghaus-e-Azam to Muslims and Kahnoow to Hindus.
Post-fire, angry mobs clashed with police and para-military CRPF troops in several old city areas. Police said at least 20 people, including 10 policemen, were injured in the clashes which raged through the day.
“Some miscreants pelted stones, injuring civilians and the police, who exercised maximum restraint,” a police spokesman said in a statement.
The devotees alleged that the fire brigade arrived at least an hour after the blaze was reported.
“Had the fire brigade acted swiftly, the revered shrine could have been saved,” lamented Riyaz Ahmad, a devotee. “There was no water in the fire tenders to douse the fire, either,” he claimed, which was, however, refuted by Director-General of Fire and Emergency Services Department G A Bhat.
“Fifteen firemen were injured in the clashes during the fire fighting. The agitating mob damaged about 22 vehicles of the department and burnt one vehicle,” the D-G said, adding that the cause of the fire was being investigated.
The angry mob also damaged an ambulance.
Injured in hospitals
Thirteen seriously injured civilians have been admitted to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS) at Soura. Their condition is stable, the Institute’s Medical Superintendent, Dr Amin Tabish, told Deccan Herald. Twenty other injured civilians were treated at SMHS Hospital, of whom 10 were discharged.
The state government has ordered a probe. “Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir will probe the unfortunate fire incident, subsequent clashes and submit a report to the government within a few days,” Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Sagar told reporters here. Minister of State for Home Nasir Aslam Wani was also present.
Both moderate and hardline factions of Hurriyat Conference, pro-independence group -Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Kashmir Bar Association and various religious organisations have called for a Kashmir bandh on Tuesday.
“We urged people to observe shutdown on Tuesday and stage peaceful protests,” hardline Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said.