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Fragile peace barely holds in tense Kashmir

By Paul Cochrane (Global Times)

08:22, July 17, 2012

All it took was an electrical short circuit that reduced a mosque to ashes to make Indian-controlled Kashmir resemble the bad days of 2010. Late last month, the over 200-year-old Sufi shrine of Peer Dastageer Sahib in the capital Srinagar was set ablaze in what officials said was a wiring issue.

But this was considered suspicious by most Kashmiris, distrustful of the Indian state and convinced it was an act of arson given there was a power cut at the time and that when the fire brigade eventually showed up, most trucks had no water onboard.

As always in conflict zones, rumors travel fast and help turn up the heat. Protesters swarmed onto the streets, stones were thrown, and the military responded with day long curfews and by putting separatist leaders under house arrest.

To Kashmiris, this brought back the memories of the weekly shutdowns and demonstrations in Srinagar in 2010, when protesters and the military faced off in the worst year of violence since the 1990s, leaving 112 Kashmiris dead.

Then a week after Srinagar's second most holy shrine burned down, a rumor started spreading that a Shia mosque on the outskirts of the city was in flames, also attributed to an electrical wiring failure.

Although it turned out later that the mosque and a Quran were desecrated and there was no fire, the incident was enough for shops to shut, the streets to empty and for people to remain on edge.

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