Kashmir was calm although shut for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday after a mysterious blaze destroyed a revered Shrine in Srinagar constructed in memory of an 11- century Muslim mystic Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA).
Smelling ‘conspiracy’ into the incident government appointed grand mufti or chief cleric of the state Bashiruddin Ahmad had called for the strike and proposed a protest march on Friday. Initial reports had suggested short circuit as the cause of fire.
Government has imposed section 144 preventing assembly of people (an euphemism for undeclared curfew) in most parts of old city for the past three days after stone pelting erupted on Monday in the aftermath of the blaze. A huge presence of Police and CRPF coupled with road blocks and concertina rolls made sure to prevent any eventuality of people coming out of their homes.
Police have swooped on youth in many parts of old city prone to stone pelting. “Over 20 stone throwers have been taken into custody from areas like Khanyar, Nawhatta, Safa Kadal and Lalbazar,” said Superintendent of city (North), Tahir Saleem. “Everything was calm in old city today,” he boasted.
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 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 which people of valley have shown,” said Javadekar.
“Tourist influx is on its peak right now and an incident like this in the scenario 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.
Peoples democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti paid her obeisance at the Dargah besides visiting the family of the Sajada Nisheen(care taker) of the shrine, Khalid Geelani.
Separatists seemed 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.
Spokesman of Hardline Hurriyat conference Ayaz Akbar said that Syed Ali shah Geelani has been under house arrest since June 07. “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.