Kashmiri residents watch as firefighters try to extinguish a fire at the nearly 200-year-old Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani Shrine in downtown Srinagar, Monday. Anti-India clashes between protesters and government forces erupted in the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir Monday after the shrine was destroyed in the fire, police said. The cause of the fire is yet unknown.
A major fire gutted a 200-year-old, revered Sufi Muslim shrine in Indian Kashmir Monday, sparking clashes between police and residents in the region’s summer capital Srinagar, police said.
Nearly two dozen people were injured in the violence, triggered by anger at the perceived delayed response of firefighters in battling the blaze.
There was no immediate confirmation of the cause of the fire at the Abdul Qadir Jeelani Shrine which is called by locale people (Gaus-ul-Azam Dastgeer Sahab (RA) shrine), one of the most revered Sufi sites in Indian Kashmir which houses a relic of the 11th century Sufi saint, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani RA.
Witnesses noticed the fire in the upper floor on Monday morning and it quickly engulfed the wooden structure.
“Ten policemen and an equal number of protesters have been injured in the clashes,” senior police officer Shiv Murari Sahai told AFP.
“We are ascertaining the cause of the fire,” Sahai said.
Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state and a long-running separatist insurgency has made for perennial tensions between residents and the security forces that often spill over into violence.
Local resident Muhammed Yusuf Khan and other witnesses claimed the fire tenders arrived late on the scene and were not properly equipped to handle the blaze.
To control the ensuing violence and prevent large-scale protests, authorities placed the region’s chief Muslim cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and some other separatist leaders under pre-emptive house arrest.
Various separatist parties and religious groups called for a protest shutdown in the state on Tuesday.
The chief custodian of the shrine, Syed Khalid Hussein, said all relics, handwritten copies of Koran and other sacred articles housed in the shrine were safe.
But the main structure, a renowned example of Kashmiri architecture with ornate ceilings and elaborate carvings, was completely gutted.
Scores of people were injured when angry youth clashed with the Indian police personnel. The people, weeping and wailing said that the fire spread due to a deliberate slow response of fire-fighters. The agitated youth raised anti-India and pro-liberation slogans.
They demanded Kashmiris’ freedom from India. The APHC and other Hurriyet leaders described the incident as a conspiracy by anti-movement elements and demanded its inquiry. The fire started in the Shrine at 6.30am soon after people finished their morning prayers. Relics of renowned Sufi Saint, Abdul Qadir Jeelani were housed in the two-century old shrine that was an architectural marvel constructed mostly of timber.
Videos circling online depict a frenzied scene, with residents of the Kashmiri city of Srinagar hurling stones at riot police and vandalizing government vehicles.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Gilani, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Mufti Bashiruddin, the Bar Association and all other Hurriyet leaders have appealed to the people to observe complete strike on Tuesday (today) to mourn the loss of spiritual and historical heritage.
Farooq Rehmani demand impartial probe of Jeelani Shrine ablaze
The Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Freedom League Muhammad Farooq Rehmani has described the act of torching the shrine of Abdul Qadir Jeelani RA as sacrilegious and aimed at destroying harmony in the Muslim majority state. He condemned it and demanded an impartial probe into the sorrowful incident so that there was no loss of human life and the people expressed their sentiments peacefully.