Protest Over Skier Intensifies In J&K

8 February 2009
The Times of Inida

Gulmarg: Angry crowds blocked the main road to Gulmarg on Sunday as massive protests continued to rock the north Kashmir resort town and adjoining areas, a day after police detained a Swedish skier for hurting Muslim religious sentiments. Henz Patrick, in his 30s, was detained after locals protested that he was using a ski slider with Quranic verses inscribed on it. While grand mufti Bashir-ud-din's call for forgiving the Swede - the Mufti met Patrick late ON Sunday evening - led to the blockade being lifted, the protests have spread to Srinagar. On Sunday morning, rumours that Patrick was part of an Israeli-led skiing group particularly inflamed passions. Raising anti-Israel slogans, angry people blocked the main road to Gulmarg at Tangmarg for several hours. A police officer said some protesters gathered outside the famed Gulmarg Gandola, Asia's highest and longest cable car project, leading to suspension of its operations for some time. 'The operations resumed in the afternoon to ferry skiers and tourists from the upper reaches,' Gulmarg Gandola MD Farooq Ahmed Khan said. In his statement, Patrick said his wife, an Arab from Qatar, had given him a good luck sticker with Quranic inscriptions, which is the first 'Kalima' of the scripture. It was this sticker pasted on his slider that kicked up a ruckus. Patrick said he there was no malicious intent on his part. The J&K government is mulling over Patrick’s deportation. 'The law will take its own course and we will have him deported after taking up the matter with the Swedish embassy in New Delhi,' chief secretary S S Kapoor said. He said some political elements were trying to exploit the issue ahead of elections.