Rampaging mobs on Saturday set on fire some public properties, including the Crime Branch office and a police guard post in Hazratbal Shrine as violence marred Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in Srinagar city.
Police blamed activists of hard line faction of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Muslim league headed by underground separatist leader Masrat Alam Bhat for carrying out the incidents of arson as part of a pre-planned conspiracy to disrupt Eid celebrations.
Soon after a protest rally organised by separatist leaders at Lal Chowk, a group of youth barged into the office of Chief Engineer Power Development Department (PDD) near Exhibition Crossing in Srinagar and set it on fire.
The adjacent building housing the Crime Branch office was also engulfed in flames within no time and the blaze spread rapidly as the building is mostly made of wood.
Police had been clearly instructed that there should be no firing on the mob. Several rounds were fired in air to disperse the mob and fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the flames.
Senior police officials led by Director General of Police (DGP) Kuldeep Khoda rushed to the spot to bring the situation under control.
So far, there are no reports of anyone getting injured in the firing incident.
The rally at Lal Chowk was organised jointly by several separatist leaders, including Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, JKLF Chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik and acting chairman of hard line faction Nissar Hussain Rather.
The separatist activists hoisted several objectionable flags atop the clock tower. The tower, which was recently renovated by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, suffered damage as several youth climbed atop it.
The Mirwaiz called for an half-an-hour sit in protest in the heart of the city and later left for his home despite assurances made by him that the crowd will disperse quietly after the sit-in.
During his Eid sermon at Eidgah, where thousands of people offered prayers, the Mirwaiz asked them to march to Lal Chowk to stage a 30-minute protest against the recent killing of people in Kashmir.
Earlier, a mob set on fire a police barrack and a vehicle of the police department
Soon after Eid-ul-Fitr prayers, a group of people attacked the police barrack in the lawns of Hazratbal and set it on fire. They also set ablaze a police vehicle.
Police opened fire to disperse the mob and prevent any further damage to public property, they said adding seven persons, including three cops were hurt in the clashes.
Police spokesman said activists of hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference led by Geelani and Muslim League disrupted Eid prayers at Hazaratbal and set afire the Auqaf building housing the policemen and a police vehicle.
"Timely and prompt action of the fire service and police stopped the fire from spreading. The mob was dispersed. However, the situation is tense," he said and accused the Mirwaiz of aggravating the situation by "leading a procession to Lal Chowk, taking the advantage of the Eid congregation.
"He (the Mirwaiz) has vitiated the Eid celebration in Srinagar," the spokesman said, adding the administration and police were exercising maximum restraint and have appealed to the people to cooperate with the administration.
The police spokesman said the workers of the Hurriyat and Muslim League, who had in a preplanned manner disrupted the peaceful prayers at Hazratbal, have been identified.
"Investigation reveals that these elements had planned in advance to provoke the administration and use the Eid congregating to disrupt festivities and create the misconception this was a popular movement," he said.
The spokesman said the arrests at Kulgam on Thursday had found that "hardline Hurriyat Conference has been using hooligans to force people to participate in the strikes and protests".
"This is for the first time that an Eid congregation has been converted into protest and the people of Srinagar have not been allowed to celebrate Eid peacefully," the spokesman said, adding it seems that people by and large are being held hostage by elements with vested interests.
Meanwhile, traffic police posts at Jahangir Chowk and Regal chowk were also set on fire. The plastic road dividers, used by the traffic police for regulating traffic, were also torched at many places.