Normal life was disrupted in Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar today after its revered Sufi shrine of Dastageer Sahib was burnt in a mysterious fire. Curfew was imposed in most parts of the city to prevent clashes of the kind that shook the city on Monday.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah cut short his foreign visit and rushed back home to visit the holy shrine. Mr Abdullah, who returned from London, drove straight to the 300-year-old holy complex for a first-hand assessment of the damage and issued instructions for early start of work for its reconstruction.
He said the shrine will be reconstructed as per its old design and architecture and appealed for calm.
And as Kashmir tried to come to terms with its monumental loss, normal life came to a standstill across the Valley, in response to a strike call by separatist groups against the shrine burning, the Kashmir Chief Minister told NDTV, "Unfortunately we have leaders amongst us who wish to use such opportunity to divide society. My only appeal to everybody that if they have any regard for this shrine. This shrine stood for tolerance, this shrine stood for peace."
Mr Abdullah, who is also the Chairman of J&K Wakf board that manages the shrine, tried to explain the lack of fire safety measures at the shrine.
"Old buildings like these, particularly shrines, never have fire safety measures because in order to put them in place the sort of fire safety measures will not fit in this old architecture and wooden structure," he said.
People are angry over what they allege was a slow response by the fire department and the absence of fire safety measures More than 80 people, most of them policemen were injured in the clashes on Monday . The angry mob attacked whatever came its way including separatist leaders like Shabir Ahmad Shah. While government is still clueless about what caused the fire, religious leaders say no government probe is acceptable unless they are part of it.
"The probe ordered by the government to ascertain cause behind the fire is not acceptable to us unless religious leaders are made part of the probe panel," said Moulana Ghulam rasool Hami.
The shrine of peer Dastgeer sahib has been revered by Muslims and Hindus alike. And, the loss of this great religious and architectural importance is mourned across the valley. While leaders across the political divide have appealed for calm, the incident has threatened fragile peace in Kashmir.