Blast Kills J&K Cleric Who Preached Peace

Blast Kills J&K Cleric Who Preached Peace

8 April 2011
Times of India
Randeep Singh Nandal

Srinagar: Militants on Friday silenced another moderate voice in Kashmir's separatist landscape. Maulana Showkat Shah was killed instantaneously when a bomb hidden in a bicycle parked near the entrance to his mosque in downtown Srinagar was detonated. Shah headed the powerful Wahhabi Ahl-e-Hadith sect with lakhs of followers and some 600 mosques across Kashmir Valley. He was known for his outspoken views which were often at variance with other separatist groups and had caused a stir by terming last year's stone-throwing as unIslamic. Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah had earned the ire of many hardline separatists in Kashmir as he backed talks for peace and opposed stone-pelting on the streets. 'His killing is a great loss and shows who are the obstacles to the path of peace in Kashmir. He wanted peace in the region,' M M Ansari, one of the Kashmir interlocutors, said. This was not the first attempt on Shah's life. In 2006, he survived a bullet attack, following which he was given police security, but on Friday his security guards were unable to save him as he was targeted by an improvised explosive device. 'It was a meticulously planned hit. They knew he entered the mosque from the rear lane and the IED was powerful enough to kill him but not to cause collateral damage,' said security. It was the first bomb attack by terrorists in Srinagar city in more than two years and prompted the police to declare a red alert. The moulvi was was taken to a nearby hospital and was declared dead on arrival. The killing triggered outrage among his followers and lead to a complete shutdown in Srinagar, with both separatists and mainstream parties expressing their anger. Protests erupted in Srinagar's Maisuma area and Hurriyat's moderate chief Mirwaiz Omar Farooq called a bandh across the valley on Saturday. 'It's a message for us. Don't you dare deviate from the script, we will get you no matter where you are, politician or preacher, you will be silenced,' a moderate separatist leader said. Maulana Showkat not only opposed acts like stone-pelting but openly differed with hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani while keeping close links with JKLF's Yasin Malik. Many in the valley see the assassination as a warning to Malik.


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