Mysterious fire incidents unnerve Kashmir

Srinagar: A day after a shrine and a Masjid were mysteriously gutted in north Kashmir’s Sopore, a shrine was gutted in Ganderbal on October 21.

Exactly a month before these twin-incidents, on September 21, by the time firefighting was underway at Islamia Hanfia Educational Institute Anantnag, the Government Middle School in Vihil Shopian was equally up in flames.

And on October 23, by the time state government expressed concern over gutting of over one dozen school buildings, four shops were gutted in another mysterious blaze in the Valley.

Amid the continued unrest of over 100 days in restive Kashmir, there have been numerous fire incidents, mainly in the last over a month. From school buildings and shops to Masjids and shrines, scores of buildings were reduced to cinder.

A sudden spurt in fire incidents across the Valley, on the boil since killing of Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and his two colleagues on July 8, has unnerved the people.

On one side it has been schools, which are bearing the brunt of the mysterious fire incidents, whereas now religious places and commercial establishments are meeting the same fate.

Though police have registered cases and started investigations, mystery continues to shroud such incidents.

The Sopore locals said when fire erupted at the shrine of Lalbab Sahib (RA) and adjacent Masjid there, hundreds of them rushed to the spot to douse the flames till firefighters were rushed in. But the efforts proved futile.

Officials said the next day, Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Abdul Haq Khan visited the spot and announced a relief of Rs 25 lakh for the reconstruction and refurbishment of the gutted shrine and Masjid.

Khan said he was sent to the village by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, “deeply hurt to learn about the tragic fire incident.”

But a day later the shrine of Hazrat Baba Atthar-ud-din Sahib at Arwani Anderwani in the central Kashmir district of Ganderbal met the same fate.

If this has been the scene of schools and religious places, the plight of commercial establishments looks no different.

On October 21, 10 shops were gutted in Shopian and Baramulla districts, again in “mysterious fire.”

Reports reveal that while eight shops were destroyed in Shopian, two shops were put on fire by “unidentified masked men in Baramulla.” On the night of October 24, four mutton shops were gutted in Tangmarg under “mysterious circumstances.”

There are many such report, whereas at places government forces were accused of torching the buildings. On the 12th of last month, residents of Raj Pora Pulwama had accused the government forces of torching four shops during nocturnal raids in the area.

As such incidents keep unfolding, the people have turned worried.

The residents of Khawaja Bazar here said they apprehend a threat to the shrine of Hazrat Naqshband Sahib(RA) here. “There have been several attempts to burn this revered shrine in the past. We fear a similar attempt again and if any such things happens authorities at the helm will be solely responsible for failing to provide adequate protection to this shrine,” the locals said.

The Kashmir Inc on the other hand is equally concerned and has contemplated to call a joint a meeting of stakeholders over this “very serious issue.” “We have been monitoring these cases of mysterious fire incidents and there seems to be some hidden design behind this all. From schools to Ziarats all is going up in flames. We are calling a meeting to decide the future course of action,”  Kashmir Economic Alliance Chairman Muhammad Yasin Khan told Kashmir observer.

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