India: Kashmir Sufi shrine fire triggers violence (VIDEO)


A Kashmiri Muslim protester throws a stone at Indian police during a demonstration, after a fire broke out at the 200 year old heritage Sufi shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani in downtown Srinagar on June 25, 2012. The fire gutted the 200-year-old revered Sufi Muslim shrine, sparking clashes between police and residents in capital city, triggered by anger at the perceived delayed response of firefighters in battling the blaze.



A fire that gutted a 200-year-old Sufi Muslim shrine in Indian Kashmir on Monday sparked clashes between residents and the police, according to Agence France Presse.

The violence, triggered by anger at what the residents felt was a delayed response to the blaze, injured at least two dozen people, said AFP.

"Ten policemen and an equal number of protesters have been injured in the clashes," senior police officer Shiv Murari Sahai told AFP.

The cause of the fire at the Peer Dastageer Sahib shrine which houses relics of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani in Srinagar was not immediately known, said The New York Daily News. The blaze started on the roof after morning prayers and engulfed the wooden structure, according to a police official.

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One report of the clashes said a fire engine was destroyed, according to the BBC.

Kashmir has played host to a separatist insurgency for over two decades, with the only Muslim-majority state in India seeking autonomy.

Indian authorities have said that rebel violence fell recently to its lowest levels since the insurgency began in 1989, according to Reuters. However, the latest clashes between stone-throwing protesters and tear gas-throwing police serve as a reminder of the region's volatility.

Muslims in Kashmir mainly follow Sufiism, a mystic tradition of Islam, at odds with the more radical form of Islam that militants fighting in the Kashmir insurgency have tried to adopt, Reuters noted.

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The chief custodian of the shrine said the relics and copies of the Quran were safe, according to AFP.

Authorities pre-emptively placed the region's principle Muslim cleric, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and some separatist leaders under house arrest, to control the spread of violence, said AFP.

Here is a video report from MSNBC:

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