200-Yr-Old Shrine Gutted in Glaze in Kashmir, Grand Mufti Calls for Shutdown

Srinagar, June 25: The tension gripped Indian administered Kashmir following the gutting of a 200-year-old revered Muslim shrine in a blaze on Monday morning.

A police official said the fire broke out inside the Peer Dastgeer Sahib shrine at Khanyar area, some 3 kms from Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir at around 0630 hours today.

He said firemen with fire extinguishers immediately rushed to the spot to extinguish the fire in the two-century-old shrine, an architectural marvel mostly of timber with ornate Khantamband and woodwork.

The shrine, which is revered all over in Kashmir had many antique chandeliers which adorned the centre of the big hall, where people visiting the shrine would pray.

“Since the shrine was made of wood, the fire spread quickly and the complex has been gutted,” the police official said.

Police said an adjacent under construction structure was also damaged in the blaze, which reportedly has been brought under control.

The blaze in the revered shrine raised tempers of the local population especially the youth, who pelted stones on police and paramilitary personnel deployed in the area. The cops retaliated by resorting to baton charge. The protesting youth damaged a firefighter vehicle.

The blaze in revered shrine spread tension across the region with some parts observing shutdown and authorities enforcing restrictions in some parts of old city, adjacent to the area which housed the Peer Dastgeer Sahib shrine.

The authorities did not allow moderate separatist leader and cleric Mirwaiz Umar to visit the gutted shrine. “Mirwaiz was placed under house arrest at his residence and was not allowed to move out and visit the gutted shrine to ascertain the damage,” a spokesman of moderate separatist leader said.

A top police officer of Kashmir, S M Sahai has urged people to remain calm and don’t pay any heed towards rumors.

He said police is ascertaining the cause of the blaze.

In a related development, Syed Khalid Hussain, the person looking after the shrine said holy relic and written copies of Holy Quran are safe. “People are requested not to pay any heed towards rumors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Grand Mufti of Kashmir, Mufti Bashiruddin has called for shutdown on Tuesday to mourn the gutting of 200-year old shrine of Dastageer Sahib at Khanyar.

“Government failed to protect the shrine. I appeal people to observe a shutdown on Tuesday,” he said.

Fayaz Wani
Fayaz Wani reports on life in Srinagar, Kashmir.