Geelani-sponsored strike did not evoke total response

Even as the strike called by hard-line Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani for Saturday did not evoke a total response, a mob torched a school bus here in an apparent bid to enforce the shutdown. But none was injured.

Sources said the bus, owned by a private school in Old City, was stopped at Khawja Bazar by a group, mostly of youth.

The driver and the conductor were asked to get down before the bus was set ablaze, with kerosene sprinkled on it.

There was a child left behind in the bus, but the conductor took him out, a teacher said.

He was safe, but he lost his schoolbag.

Soon after the incident, the private schools in the city closed fearing reprisal from the groups that were bent upon enforcing the strike. “The safety of children is paramount. We cannot take any risk,” said the principal of a private school.

However, Mr. Geelani disowned the incident. “It was against our programme,” he told journalists.

“We are against arson and surrounding an institution. Our programme is peaceful.”

The Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, a body of Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley, has condemned the arson “by the unscrupulous elements…”

“These acts need to be condemned by all who consider themselves part of Kashmir and the Kashmiri society. It is very much a fact that if the act was committed by the men in uniform, the whole valley would ring the bell of human rights violation,” Samiti president Sanjay Tickoo said in a statement.

Inspector-General of Police (Kashmir Zone) S.M. Sahai told The Hindu that a case was registered. “We are trying to identify those responsible,” he said.

Shops in the main markets put up the shutters, but banks, post offices, government offices, many educational institutions and private transport worked.

For almost two months, the people have been lukewarm in their response to the separatist-called protests and shutdowns.