Anatomy Of Fear In Kashmir13 April 2011
Times of India
Srinagar: The Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith headquarters in Babershah in downtown Srinagar witnessed a unique event in Kashmir's 20-year-old troubles. It was the first open gathering of Kashmiri separatists to discuss the motives and minds behind the murder of Maulvi Showkat Ahmed Shah. The head of the Wahabi sect was killed on the steps of a mosque in a pinpoint IED strike. With some 15 lakh followers the Ahl-e-Hadith cannot be ignored. So, all shades of separatists, from Yasin Malik to a representative of the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, turned up at Jamiat's call. It's common knowledge here that Maulvi Showkat was killed by militants. The reasons for this assumption range from his fatwa against stone pelting to his contacts with the government. Even the sect's ideological differences with the Jamait-e-Islami are cited. Political assassinations are not new to Kashmir. Beginning with Mirwaiz Mohammed Farooq to People's Conference leader Abdul Ghani Lone, to more low key leaders, many have been killed by militants. But these killings have always been shrouded in silence. In fact, the man who assassinated Mirwaiz Farooq, Abdullah Bangroo of the Hizbul Mujahideen, is buried just a few paces away from the Mirwaiz in the 'martyr's graveyard' in Srinagar. So Wednesday's meeting was nothing short of revolutionary. But it flattered to deceive. Speaker after speaker praised Maulvi Showkat. Curses were rained on his killers. From prominent lawyers to Hurriyat moderates, everyone vowed to uncover the truth. But nobody dared to bell the cat. After a while the meeting descended into a farce, 'The killers are within us. They are among us. We should unmask them,' was followed by a meaningful glance at the next speaker. For Maulvi Showkat's young son, sitting there dazed, it must have been a quick political education. The leaders of Kashmir's freedom struggle, those who ask thousands to face and defy bullets and batons, cowed into silence. It took a small Ahl-e-Hadith district president from Anantnag to get to the point. 'What are we saying? Either the murder is the work of Indian agencies. Or it is Pakistan. Who works for Pakistan here? It's the Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen. Why can't we just simply state this? Everyone in this room knows that.' You could hear a pin drop in the hall. Yasin Malik was the last speaker, considered close to the slain Maulvi. Malik spoke about the virtues of peace, of rogue elements, of Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. He finally suggested a message be sent to the unknown killers by a joint namaz next friday at the Gawakadal mosque where Showkat preached. To be followed by an hour long peaceful sitdown in protest. Then they were off. Closely guarded by their police escorts, sirens blaring. Since the assassination, nobody is taking chances. They could be next.