Srinagar tense as historical shrine gutted; relics safe | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Srinagar tense as historical shrine gutted; relics safe

chandigarh Updated: Jun 25, 2012 22:45 IST
Toufiq Rashid

A shrine to an 11th century saint, Peer Dastgeer Sahib, was gutted in a fire that broke out early morning on Monday even as its management claimed that all holy relics kept there were saved.

According to officials, the fire broke out around 6.15am due to a suspected short circuit at one of the minarets at the shrine while the morning prayers were on.

The shrine is an old wood structure that has been the seat of spiritualism as well as sufism in the valley for centuries.

"The shrine authorities managed to save the relics as they were placed in a fire-proof vault,"' said an official.

An under-construction structure adjoining the shrine was also damaged in the blaze, which reportedly was brought under control at the time of filing of report.

Even as authorities were trying to look for causes of fire, tension prevailed in the old city of Srinagar due to damage to the shrine.

Blaming the authorities for the "late action" in tackling the fire, the devotees resorted to stone-pelting at many places in the vicinity of the shrine. "It was a minor fire but the fire brigade reached an hour late. Besides, three out of the four fire engines hardly had any water," said a devotee Altaf Ahmad. He pointed out that fire brigade station was just a few kilometers away.

Authorities said that they were investigating the matter. "We are trying to investigate what happened. Things are under control and there is no curfew at any place in the city," said Srinagar SSP Ashiq Bhukari.

The reverence for the 11th century saint in Kashmir cuts across religious barriers. While Muslims call the saint Ghaus-e-Azam, the Hindus revere the saint as Kahnoow.

The shrine is an old traditional architectural structure, made mostly of timber, with walls and ceilings made of hand-carved wood and papier mache.

Many antique chandeliers adorned the centre of the big hall, where people visiting the shrine would pray.

IANS ADDS: Tension gripped the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir following a blaze that gutted the revered Peer Dastageer Sahib shrine, police said.

Stone-pelting mobs clashed with security forces in parts of the old city, prompting the authorities to increase security in the entire capital city.

Three people were injured in the stone pelting. Traffic in the old city has been diverted after the mob violence, a senior police officer said. Police used tear smoke and resorted to repeated baton charges to disperse the mobs.

The mobs also pelted with stones a police station in Khanyar, where the shrine of Peer Dastageer Sahib is located.

Senior police officers, along with reinforcements, also reached the Khanyar locality.