January 1998 News

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Government Delay in Ordering Enquiry on Shrine Fire Causes Unrest - Jamaatis Claim Foul Play Involved

15th January 1998
Ziarat at Tral

SRINAGAR: The 600-year old shrine of Hazrat Amir Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (Shah-e-Hamdar) was damaged after it caught fire on December 16, 1997. It is reported that after a short circuit occurred in the building leading to the fire which later spread and gutted the entire shrine, which was a wooden structure. However, the Holy Relics could be saved. Local chowkidar, who was on duty, has stated that he did not see any person entering on leaving the building and had not heard any explosion either.

However, the delay in ordering a special enquiry into the incident has caused local unreat. Jamaatis have taken advantage of the situation by floating rumours that the shrine was deliberately gutted. The Jamaatis also told Pakistani ISI(secret agency) to ask Prime Minister NawazSharif to raise the issue with his Indian counterpart during the mid-January Dhaka Summit. This lapse on the part of the government shows how the administration has not been able to come up to the mark as yet and is only making it easier for the Jamaatis and Pakistani agents to spread lies and cause trouble.

The shrine had been recently taken over by the state government through the reconstituted Anqaf Trust. The local tehsildar, who was appointed as the custodian of the shrine, had ordered audit of old accounts which was resented by the members of the previous pro-Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) committee.

As a sequel to the incident, local Muslims, numbering about 4,000, gathered at Tral on December 17, 1997 and protested against the administration's failure in protecting the Ziarat. After the mob turned violent and resorted to stone pelting, the police lobbed tear gas shells and subsequently fired about ten rounds when tear gas shelling proved ineffective. Three persons were hospitalized after they received injuries in the incident. A partial bandh was also observed in Tral and adjoining areas on December 17, 1997.

Sheikh Ali Mohd Sagar, minister of state for home, Jammu & Kashmir, visited Tral on December 17, 1997 and assured the people that although there was no evidence to suggest foul play, a case of arson would be registered and the Crime Branch would probe all aspects to determine the cause of the fire. He also agreed to institute an inquiry into the incident of police firing and said that the injured would be given compensation by the state government.

Meanwhile, the state government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the fire as well as police firing at Tral. Two cases under relevant sections of the law have been registered by the police in connection with the fire and mob violence. National Conference workers led by Ali Mohd. Naik, speaker of the J&K Assembly, took out a procession of about 1000-1200 demonstrators at Tral on December 20 and appealed to the people to maintain peace. The measures taken by the state government have helped defuse the tension. 


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