Kashmir remained calm on Thursday even as normal life was thrown out of gear for the fourth consecutive day after a mysterious blaze destroyed the revered Dastgeer Sahib shrine in Srinagar.
Crying "conspiracy" behind the incident, government-appointed grand mufti or chief cleric of the state, Bashiruddin Ahmad, has called for a strike and protest march on Friday. Initial reports had suggested short circuit as the cause of fire at the shrine.
The state government has imposed Section 144, preventing assembly of four or more people in most parts of the old city for the past three days after stone-pelting incidents on Monday in the aftermath of the blaze.
A posse of police and CRPF men coupled with road blocks and concertina rolls ensured people remained confined to their homes.
Meanwhile, police have swooped down on youths in many old areas of Srinagar that are prone to stone-pelting incidents. "Over 20 stone-throwers have been taken into custody from areas like Khanyar, Nawhatta, Safa Kadal and Lalbazar," said SP (north) Tahir Saleem. "Everything was calm in the old city on Thursday," he said.
While separatists continued to remain under house arrest, many mainstream political leaders including PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar visited Khanyar- the place where shrine is located in the old city.
"It is too painful to bear the loss of this tragedy. This place has been a confluence of people from all religions. But I must acknowledge the patience people of the valley have shown," said Javadekar.
"Tourist influx is at its peak right now and an incident like this makes it clear that there are intentions of stoking unrest. As people have no faith in a government probe, it should convene a meeting of civil society and political leaders to carry out an independent probe," he said.
Mehbooba Mufti paid obeisance at the dargah besides visiting the family of sajada nasheen (caretaker) of the shrine, Khalid Geelani.
Separatists were aghast over government move to impose restrictions for the past three days. "Now, we don't have a right to visit even our revered shrines," mocked Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik.
A spokesman of hardline Hurriyat Conference Ayaz Akbar said that Syed Ali Shah Geelani had been under house arrest since June 7. "Pro-India politicians are provided protection and are escorted to the place while people have been confined to their homes. This speaks volumes about the government policy," Akbar said.