Historic Dastgeer Sahab(RA) shrine gutted
Valley In Anguish, Grief; Clashes, Protests In Srinagar, Elsewhere
SHABIR IBN YUSUF
Srinagar, June 25: The revered two centuries old shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA) popularly known as Gaus-ul-Azam Dastgeer Sahab (RA) was gutted in a mysterious fire incident on early Monday morning in Khanyar area of old Srinagar, plunging the Valleyites into anguish and grief.
Soon after tragic incident, the authorities deployed police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on almost all roads of Srinagar to thwart any attempt of protests. Police and CRPF were witnessed carrying out frisking of bikers at many places in Srinagar.
Life in Srinagar’s commercial hub Lal Chowk was also affected due to partial shutdown to mourn the fire incident. The traffic was also thick on the roads in Lal Chowk and commuters were seen uncomfortable.
Despite heavy deployment of forces, clashes broke out between angry people and police resulting at various places across the valley resulting in injuries to scores of persons including some cops.
The Holy Relic of the Dastgeer Sahab (RA) according to care-takers of shrine was safely retrieved from the fire-proof vault inside the shrine. The blaze, however, destroyed antique chandeliers and invaluable wood carving panels of the shrine besides the entire old wooden structure that housed the mausoleum. The reverence for Dastgeer Sahab (RA) cuts across religious lines across Kashmir with both the local Muslims and Pandits holding the saint in high esteem.
The fire broke out inside the shrine at around 6.30 am this morning, officials said.
They said around 40 fire tenders were immediately rushed to the spot. The people alleged that the shrine would have been saved had the fire tenders reached the spot in time.
The fire was controlled after five hours with the help of locals and several fire brigade vehicles.
The people, who assembled in thousands near the shrine, said while the fire broke out at 6.30 am, the fire tenders arrived at the spot at 7.15 am. Initially around 11 fire tenders reached the spot to douse the fire. However after less than 15 minutes there was no water for these tenders.
The fire tenders came under heavy stone pelting when they went to refill their tanks from the nearby Brarinambal water body. The people were aghast as to how could the fire tenders use the polluted waters of the water body to douse the flames at the shrine.
“We were crying. We telephoned the Fire services department control room, but they did not believe us,” said Muhammad Iqbal. “When they reached the fire has engulfed whole of the shrine.”
Bashir Ahmad, a local resident, said; “We called the Fire and Emergency Services Department more than 10 times before they responded. Two fire brigades arrived but they ran out of water.” Manzoor Ahmad, another local resident, added.
Meanwhile, hundreds of police personnel including the senior police officers (IGP & DGP) reached the spot. Police swung into action and burst tear smoke shells and fired pellets to disperse the people.
In police action and stone pelting at least 40 people were injured. Two among them were injured due to pellets. The injured were treated at SMHS and SKIMS hospitals.
About 18 injured were treated at SKIMS and one of them was hit by pellets in hand and leg. “Most of them have suffered got suffocation due to inhalation of tear smoke shells. One injured brought here was hit by pellets,” Medical Superintendent (MS) SKIMS Dr Amin Tabish told Greater Kashmir. “They are out of danger.”
MS, SMHS hospital Dr Nazir Chowdhary told Greater Kashmir that 13 injured were treated I the hospital. “A youth with pellet injury was admitted here and the rest were discharged after first aid treatment,” he said.
A group of people stoned the cavalcade of Minister of Law and Parliamentary affairs, Ali Muhammad Sagar when he tried to reach the spot to take stock of the situation. However, he left the spot unhurt. “We asked him that situation in the area was grave and it was not feasible for him to come. He did not pay heed to our advice and paid the price,” a senior police officer told Greater Kashmir.
Senior Hurriyat Conference leaders Shabir Ahmad Shah and Nayeem Ahmad Khan were assaulted by people outside the shrine, however they escaped unhurt.
According to sources, as the duo reached the spot a group of people pounced on them and beat them ruthlessly. However, some of the people intervened and facilitated their fleeing from spot.
In Old city, police have imposed strict restrictions under section 144 in Khanyar and adjoining areas. According to Police the restrictions have been imposed in Khanyar, Bohri Kadal, Saraf Kadal, Rainawari and Nowhatta areas in view of the clashes and protests triggered by the shrine inferno.
According to late evening reports, police arrested two youth in old city while as two persons including a woman were allegedly beaten ruthlessly after they resisted ransacking of their houses by paramilitary CRPF men.
Locals alleged that a heavy pose of Police and CRPF Monday evening entered into the residential house in Budabagh area in old city and beat up the inmates ruthlessly without any provocation. “They (CRPF) men damaged the windowpanes of houses and vehicles,” they added.
“When the inmates resisted the CRPF action, they were beaten ruthlessly. A youth was shifted to a hospital,” locals said.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Central Kashmir, Syed Afad-ul-Mujtaba denied the reports of ransacking of houses, but admitted some youth were arrested. “During the day some youth were arrested for pelting stones in some parts of Srinagar,” he said.
Meanwhile, Police did not allow the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to visit Khanyar area, a Hurriyat (M) spokesman said.
He said soon after Mirwaiz heard about fire engulfing the Dastgeer Sahib (RA) Shrine he decided to visit the area. However, a huge contingent of police deployed outside his Nageen residence informed him that he cannot move out and he is under house arrest, the spokesman added.
He said Shahid-ul-Islam was also placed under house arrest.
Pulwama and Tral towns of south Kashmir Monday observed strike against burning of shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA). Clashes were also reported from some areas however no one was hurt.
In Pulwama town dozens of youth appeared in the town and forced a shutdown. Shopkeepers downed their shutters and traffic disappeared from roads.
The interiors of the district also witnessed a partial strike as many passenger vehicles were off the roads and shops also remained closed.
Tral town also observed a complete strike throughout the day. The area also witnessed clashes between police and people. The youth pelted stones on forces. All the shops and business establishments remained closed throughout the day and the vehicular traffic also remained off the roads.
A police spokesman said; “Today (Monday) morning fire broke out in the Ziyarat Dastgeer Sahab (RA), Khanyar, Srinagar, in which the shrine and Jamia Qadeem got damaged. The roof of the Zanan Khana and Jamia Jadeed also got damaged. The holy relics of the shrine are safe.”
It added that senior police officers rushed to the spot. Fire has been brought under control. “Some miscreants pelted stones. In the stone pelting 10 policemen and 10 civilians were injured. Situation is under control.”
The Inspector of General of Police (IGP) Kashmir zone S M Sahai has asked people to remain calm and don’t pay any heed to rumors. Talking to Greater Kashmir Sahai said, “Police are ascertaining the cause of fire. Situation is under control.”
Joint Director, Fire and Emergency Service (FES) RT Dubi claimed that 5 to 8 fire tenders could have easily dealt with the fire but the local interference led to the fire getting out of control. “Since the fire brigade had run out of water initially, water was pumped from the Brarinambal and the people did not allow that,” he said adding that they reached the spot in time.
Dubi said that soon after the eruption of fire, all fire tenders from Srinagar city reached the spot. “We also brought fire tenders from Budgam, Pulwama, Anantnag,” he said. The official added that 14 fire tenders including Bronto Sky vehicle was damaged due to stone pelting and one vehicle was torched. “Some of our men were also injured,” he said.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 25 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 25 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 26 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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