The three main buildings of the school in central Srinagar were razed in a devastating mysterious fire on Sunday night. Police said it was investigating the incident.
But Kashmir’s chief Muslim priest and founder chairman of Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of separatist parties, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, alleged it was an act of sabotage.
“We have found the evidence to that effect,” the Mirwaiz told Aljazeera.net. He is the president of Anjuman-e-Nusrat al-Islam, an organisation that runs more than a dozen schools and other educational institutions across Indian-administered-Kashmir, including the burnt-out Islamic Higher Secondary School.
He added that petrol and other inflammable substance were sprinkled on the structures built of exposed burnt brick, timber and on the windows made of delicate wood work.
Haji Gulam Rasool Shah who lives close by said he noticed fire around 3 am (local time) when he awoke to pray. He raised an alarm. “Within no time the edifice was engulfed by the rising flames and in absence of the requisite tools we could do nothing. When the fire-tenders arrived it was too late,” Shah, a retired government official who studied in this school, said in a choked voice.
“What I can say is that those who want to rob the people of Kashmir of their glorious past are behind this shameful act”
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq,
Asked who could have torched the historic school, the Mirwaiz said it was for the police and other authorities to find out. “What I can say is that those who want to rob the people of Kashmir of their glorious past are behind this shameful act,” he said.
The incident sparked off protests by residents and alumni of the school. Agitating crowds took to the streets in old Srinagar where traders went on a spontaneous strike.
As police and paramilitary force men went out on patrol, small crowds of youth jeered them, said witnesses.
A section hurled stones to force the withdrawal of vehicular traffic. Police reinforcements were rushed to avert an escalation of tension but anger among the residents is on the rise.
Anjuman-e-Nusrat al-Islam, the first socio-religious organisation in Kashmir, was the outcome of a movement 100 years ago to thwart what many believed was the threat posed by growing activities of Christian missionaries.