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Fire in Kulgam temple: Kashmiri Pandits smell rat, police deny foul play

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Kulgam: As the news of a minor fire at an ancient temple in Kashmir broke out, Kashmiri Pandits lodged a protest demanding the arrest of those who ‘engineered’ the act while as police ruled out any ‘foul play’.

Police said its preliminary investigation suggested that it was an accidental fire that may have been caused by the burning diyas at the Mata Lalita Tripura Sundari temple in Devsar area of Kulgam on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday.

“The minor fire incident in Mata TripurSundari (Devsar) temple is being investigated by Police. Pre Enquiry reveals #Fire happend accidentally by the DIYAs/ARTI being kept in Temple for daily routine…. No signs of Miscreant act. Public are requested not to pay heed to rumors (sic)”, Kulgam district police tweeted.

Kulgam Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) G V Sundeep Chakravarthy and Deputy Commissioner Bilal Mohi-ud-din Bhat rushed to the temple to investigate.

The Kashmiri Pandits, however, alleged the police of a cover up. They questioned how the fire broke out at midnight in such extreme cold conditions and how the tree, considered to the seat of the deity, was burnt while curtains and threads offered by devotees were not.

“It’s not possible that diyas could cause such fire, that too, when no one enters the temple these days… can a diya cause fire at 1 am,” Sunita Dhar, a resident of Devsar asked.

“This is unacceptable and the local authorities rushing to conclusions without investigating is even more tormenting,” former BJP lawmaker Surinder Ambardar said.

Demanding an unbiased investigation, Vishwa Kashmiri Samaj convenor Kiran Watal said, “It is the duty of the Lieutenant Governor administration and police to protect centuries-old religious heritage temples and shrines in Kashmir.”

Functionaries of the Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj and global Kashmiri Pandits Diaspora, too, demanded a speedy investigation into the case.

Locals said ‘arti’ is not performed at the temple off late as it remains closed.

Police, for their part, said an Army team had cleaned and sanitized the temple in the midnight and the fire may have triggered during the cleanup.

The Army, however, did not responded to queries.

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