Strike To Mourn Shrine Gutting Paralyses Life

Strike To Mourn Shrine Gutting Paralyses Life

26 June 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: Curfew like restrictions were imposed in parts of Srinagar and security across Kashmir valley was beefed up following tension over the gutting of the revered shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani in Khanyar area of Srinagar yesterday. Sensing the trouble after the religious organizations and separatists called for one day strike and yesterday's clashes between police and protesters in which 50 protesters including 10 policemen were injured, authorities imposed curfew like restrictions in the old city areas falling under Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta, SR Gunj and Safa Kadal Police stations. Sensing trouble, District Magistrate Srinagar, Baseer Khan, this evening imposed restrictions under Section 144 on the movement of public and transport in the 6 police stations areas in Srinagar City indefinitely. The order said that the restrictions will continue till further orders. The Police Station areas where restrictions have been imposed indefinitely are Khanyar, Nowhatta, MR Gunj, Rainawari, Safakadal and Kralkhud. 'The step has been taken in view of the law and order situation in Srinagar district and to avoid breach of peace and tranquility as well as damage to life and property', the DM's order added. The order said that SSP Srinagar, Aashiq Bukhari, has been directed to implement the order in letter and spirit. Police in the old city area made announcements through loud speakers fitted on the police vehicles about imposition of curfew in the morning today. They asked people to stay indoors and not to come out of their houses in these areas. Police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed in riot control gear disallowed pedestrian and vehicular movement in the area since morning. No one was allowed to come out or go inside these areas as police had barricaded the roads with concertina wire. However, there was no curfew in the civil lines area of the city but the police and CRPF were deployed in full strength across Kashmir valley's major towns to prevent any violence. A complete mourning shutdown was observed in Srinagar city and other parts of Kashmir valley in response to a strike called by the United Forum of Islamic Scholars (Muthida Majlis-e-Ulam J&K). It was supported by both the factions of the Hurriyat Conference, JKLF, UJC and Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association. Shops, business establishments, educational institutions and public transport remained off the roads. Attendance in banks, post offices and Government offices was thin because of the restrictions and non-availability of public transport in the city. There were stray incidents of stone pelting in Chanpora, Zakura area of Srinagar and parts of Baramulla. However, no one was injured in these clashes. Overall situation was tense but remained peaceful. The annual Amarnath Yatra which started here on Monday, however, continued smoothly despite the shutdown. Scores of vehicles carrying the pilgrims to the base camps of Pahalgam and Baltal continued moving normally. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who was in the United Kingdom cut short his visit and arrived here today. He straight away drove to the gutted shrine of Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA) at Khanyar for an on the spot inspection and assessment of the quantum of damage amid tight security. The residents of the area who were allowed to clear the debris inside the gutted shrine were removed from the shrine complex before the arrival of the Chief Minister to avoid any untoward incident. It may be mentioned here that the angry mob didn't allow Minister for Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, to visit the gutted shrine yesterday and senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah was heckled and beaten up there The Chief Minister, accompanied by Minister for Rural Development, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani, Advisors to the Chief Minister, Mubarak Gul and Devender Singh Rana, Principal Secretary Home, B R Sharma, Director General Police, K Rajendra and Vice Chairman, Muslim Waqaf Board, M Y Qadri interacted with Sajada Nasheen Syed Khalid Hussain Jeelani, locals and the management of the Shrine. The Chief Minister said on the occasion that the holy shrine will be restored to its original glory and the best possible expertise will be engaged for its restoration. He appealed to the people to maintain peace and exercise restraint and exhibit highest degree of tolerance. He said the entire State is anguished and is in a State of mourning. He urged the people of the State to beware of divisive forces whose sole objective is to disrupt peace and harmony. 'All of us who regard and respect the divine and revered shrine should stand for peace and tolerance', he asserted. Earlier during the night, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) cleared the debris of the gutted shrine from the roads and from around the shrine. But the people in the morning objected to the Government's clearance of the debris. Later, the Government allowed the residents of Dastigheer Sahib Locality to clear the debris. Around 50 people were seen clearing the debris inside the shrine throughout the day. The United Forum of Islamic Scholars that had called for one day strike today have demanded impartial probe into the fire incident and formation of a committee to be headed by the caretaker of the Shrine Syed Khalid Hussain Jeelani. In the meantime, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has strongly condemned the hooliganism indulged in by some elements at Khanyar yesterday in which senior political leaders Shabir Ahmed Shah and Nayeem Ahmed Khan were maltreated. A spokesman of the party said in a statement that there was no occasion to show such disrespect to the senior leaders or display hooliganism on a somber occasion like this. He said the anguish and pain caused by the destruction of an iconic spiritual centre is nobody's monopoly and all Kashmiri's particularly and the followers of Hazrat Dastgeer Sahib all over the world share this pain. He said it seems some political elements, who have historically used muscle power and browbeating as their preferred political tool are trying to fish in troubled waters. He said it is easy to identify such elements and by now the Government should have proceeded against them. But, it is unlikely to happen as they have been indulging in such acts as a part of their political tactics and are enjoying political patronage and protection from the NC leadership. The PDP spokesman expressed concern at the hasty cleaning operations at the gutted shrine during the night. He wondered whether this was opportune to remove all evidence even before the Government had ordered an enquiry into the cause of this unfortunate incident. He said given the Government’s track record in enquiries ordered by it very few people would expect the truth to come out but destroying all physical evidence before the enquiry could take off has rendered it all the more futile and cosmetic. The spokesman expressed serious concern at the Government's inability to safeguard the shrines, dotting various places of the valley which have a tremendous religious significance and heritage value. The spokesman said it is a matter of grave concern that some ruling party politicians who also are part of the Wakf Board have been interfering in the matters of prominent shrines as if they are their personal property. Such interference and lack of any discipline in dealing with these delicate structures could be one reason for the Khanyar catastrophe. He said the constitution of Wakf Board was done basically to keep it above partisan politics and the composition of first Wakf Board reflected this healthy change. The Chief Patron Jammu Kashmir Mahaz-e-Azadi (MeA), Muhammad Azam Inqilabi in a statement issued here termed gutting of the shrine as a national loss. 'Our hearts are grieved over this tragedy. This may be part of a bigger conspiracy', said Inqilabi. A group of Islamic scholars here today rejected the probe ordered by the State Government in the gutting of Dastigeer Sahib shrine at Khanyar. The scholars demanded that the probe should be independent without any interference from the Government. Addressing a press conference, Syed Mohammad Ashraf Andrabi, chairman, Shah-i-Hamdan Memorial Trust said that a judge of the High Court should hold a probe in the incident. He said the judge can either be a sitting one or a retired, adding that the probe should also include some of the religious scholars. 'We out-rightly reject the probe to be carried out by the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir. There are chances that the Divisional Commissioner may come under the influence of the Government and furnish the report that is in favour of the Government. The probe should be carried out by a judge since there are less chances of interference in such a situation,' said Andrabi. Andrabi said that the possibility of sabotage cannot be ruled out in the fire incident. He said there was no electricity in the Khanyar area when fire broke out in the shrine of Dastigeer Sahib. Jammu and Kashmir People's Political Party (PPP) Chairman, Engineer Hilal Ahmad War has urged the people to observe complete Kashmir Bandh on June 29 (Friday) and march towards shrine of Peer Dastageer Sahab Khanyar and assemble at the historic Shrine Wherein after performing Friday prayers.