Blaze at Sufi shrine triggers violence in Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India, June 25 Mon Jun 25, 2012 2:14pm IST

SRINAGAR, India, June 25 (Reuters) - Fire gutted one of the most revered Sufi Muslim shrines in the Indian part of the divided Kashmir region on Monday sparking clashes between police and angry Muslim protesters, witnesses said.

Indian Kashmir has long been plagued by violence over a campaign by some of its mostly Muslim residents, helped by supporters in neighbouring Pakistan, to break away from India.

Indian authorities say rebel violence has recently fallen to its lowest level since the anti-India revolt broke out in 1989, but Monday's clashes will be a reminder of how volatile the region can be.

At least six people were hurt in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar when police fired teargas at stone-throwing protesters enraged over the destruction of the 350-year-old wooden shrine which housed a relic of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, an 11th century Sufi saint, police said.

Rioters torched a fire engine and threw stones at firefighters and some members of the media.

"After morning prayers, fire started from the roof top of the shrine. We're still trying to determine the cause," said Farooq Ahmad, a police official at the scene.

"The holy relic of the Sufi saint is safe and has been retrieved."

Police sealed off roads leading to the shrine where hundreds of men and women had gathered, many of them wailing and crying.

"I feel like I've lost everything," cried a 45-year-old woman, Shameema Akhtar, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Muslim militants spearheading the anti-India campaign in Kashmir have in the past tried to enforce a radical form of Islam, banning beauty parlours, cinemas and liquor shops, as well as asking women to wear the veil.

But they have had little success in a region where people mostly follow Sufiism, a gentle, mystic tradition of Islam.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the years of strife in the region that both of the nuclear-armed rivals, India and Pakistan, claim. Pakistan controls part of Kashmir in the west.

(Reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Markets

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Segway in India

Segway in India

Segway’s India business pegs hope on tech-savvy Modi  Full Article 

Power Outage

Power Outage

Mumbai hit by power cuts  Full Article 

Commodities

Commodities

Gold imports, premiums to jump on festive demand - top refiner  Full Article 

Economic Worries

Economic Worries

Pakistan's promises to IMF in doubt as protests sap economy   Full Article 

Islamic Finance

Islamic Finance

Basel III deposit challenge looms over Islamic banks   Full Article 

Antitrust Probes

Antitrust Probes

U.S. business lobby says concerned China antitrust probes unfair.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage