Yusuf Jameel, Asian Age Correspondent
Srinagar, 29 June 2012. The fire that devastated Srinagar’s nearly 250-year-old Sufi shrine on Monday, initially perceived to have been caused by an electrical short-circuit, is fast turning into a mystery.
A local police SIT is probing the incident, which triggered violent protests in Srinagar, major parts of which remained under non-stop curfew for the fourth day straight on Thursday. Also, the predominantly Muslim Valley continues to be shut in mourning.
Officials said the SIT is looking into all angles, including arson. People living in the shrine neighbourhood, and other witnesses, have told the police that a night before the fire a group of preachers from outside, all wearing green turbans, had arrived at the shrine. They reportedly argued with local worshippers over an issue related to a tradition associated with the shrine, built in honour of the Sunni saint Sheikh Syed Abd al-Qadir Jeelani.
According to them, the group was served dinner at a private house and returned to the shrine for the night. Soon after the dawn prayers, the visitors left in a hurry. It was an hour or so after they had gone that fires was noticed simultaneously at three places in the shrine complex, as is claimed by some witnesses.
“There was no electricity there at that time,” the shrine’s chief custodian, Syed Khalid Hussein, has claimed, ruling out the possibility of an electrical short-circuit.
The SIT is trying to find out who the visitors were, who invited them, who they met and where they went. It is on the basis of the statements of locals and other witnesses that the police FIR also mentions CrPC Section 480, which pertains to “mischief by fire or explosives in a building, etc”.