Anantnag: At least three commercial complexes were completely gutted in a fire that was reportedly caused by teargas shells fired by government troops in Reshi Bazaar area of Anantnag town on Friday.
The fire was mostly doused by the locals before fire tenders arrived.
Locals who were dousing the fire chased away the deputy commissioner (DC) Anantnag, some senior police officers and members of the Territorial Army (TA), accusing them of being responsible for the fire.
As per reports, intense stone-pelting clashes occurred in the area after the Friday prayers were over. Nine youth are reported to have been injured by pellets.
“The police used tear smoke shells to disperse the protesting youth. Some of the shells landed in one of the commercial complexes here, causing the fire,” a local told Kashmir Reader.
The three commercial structures housed dozens of shops and many godowns in the congested Reshi Bazaar.
The fire broke out just before the Maghrib prayers.
Station House Officer (SHO) Ayaz Geelani refuted allegations that the fire was caused by tear smoke shells. “The smoke shells were fired at about 5pm and the fire began at about 7:30. It could not have been caused by tear smoke shells,” Geelani told Kashmir Reader.
When asked about the damage done by the fire, Geelani said that his men were not allowed to move towards the site by the agitated people there.
Local sources told Kashmir Reader that the DC Anantnag, Syed Abid, tried to reach the spot but was chased away by people who threw stones at him.
Sources said that Abid was hit by a stone, as was one of his escorts. Abid, though, told Kashmir Reader that “no such thing happened.”
Army soldiers who had tried to help the locals were also reportedly chased away.
Unconfirmed reports said that Traders Federation Anantnag has called for a protest on Saturday.