Strike In Kashmir After Oldest School Burns Down
6 July 2004
Srinagar: Shops and businesses closed on Tuesday in Kashmir's main city to protest against the burning down of the region's oldest school, run by the chief Muslim priest, who has been holding talks with New Delhi. The 105-year-old Islamia Higher Secondary School in downtown Srinagar was set ablaze on Monday in a suspected arson attack that police blamed on Muslim rebels fighting Indian rule. The fire also destroyed about 30,000 books and a rare handwritten manuscript of the Quran. The strike called by the chief priest of Kashmir, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whose Awami Action Committee ran the school, closed down most educational institutions in the city. 'I believe it is the handiwork of the same forces who eliminated my uncle Moulvi Mushtaq. We know them closely and shall expose them shortly,' Umar Farooq, who is also a top leader of the main separatist alliance All Party Hurriyat Conference, told the Greater Kashmir newspaper. Moulvi Mushtaq Ahmad, an uncle of Umar Farooq, died in an attack by suspected rebels last month. Umar Farooq was part of a moderate group of Hurriyat leaders who started talks with Indian government leaders in January, for the first time since an uprising broke out in 1989 against New Delhi's rule. Militants opposed the talks. A fresh wave of rebel violence has engulfed Kashmir despite peace moves by India and Pakistan, which agreed last month to a sustained dialogue for a final settlement of their dispute over the Himalayan region. Guerrilla violence in the first five days of this month has killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 70, police said.