The fire incident that devastated Srinagar’s nearly 250-year-old Sufi shrine on Monday, initially perceived to be result of electric short circuit, is fast turning into an intriguing mystery which police is trying to uncover.
The local police’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) is probing the incident that has been widely mourned across Jammu and Kashmir and beyond and, in fact, triggered violent protests in capital Srinagar, major parts of which remained under nonstop curfew for the fourth day straight on Thursday.
Also, the predominantly Valley continues to be shut in mourning.
Officials here said that the SIT is looking into all the angles which, notably, included the possibility of it being an act of arson.
People living in the shrine neighbourhood and also some other witnesses have told police that a night before the devastating fire broke out a group of outside preachers- all of whom wearing green colour turbans-had arrived at the shrine.
They reportedly entered into an argument with local worshippers over an issue related to a tradition associated with the shrine built in honour and memory of the 11th century Sunni saint Sheikh Syed Abd al-Qadir Jeelani who is buried in Baghdad, Iraq.
According to them, the group was served dinner at a nearby private house and returned to the shrine to spend the night there.
Soon after the dawn prayers, the visitors left the premises in hurry. It was an hour or so after they had gone that fire was noticed simultaneously at three places in the shrine complex as is being claimed by some witnesses.
“There was no electricity there at that time,” the chief custodian Syed Khalid Hussein has claimed, ruling out possibility of electric short circuit.
The SIT is working hard to find out who the visitors were, who had invited them, who did they meet with and where did they go after spending the night at the shrine.
It is on the basis of the statements made by the locals and other witnesses that the police FIR registered at the Khanyar police station under various sections of law also mentions Section 480 of Crpc which pertains to “mischief by fire or explosives in a building, etc.”
While the main shrine, an architectural marvel, adjacent old mosque and a couple of other structures were completely gutted, the recently built mosque (Masjid-e-Jadeed) was damaged.
(Yusuf Jameel is a senior Kashmiri journalist working with The Asian Age)