By D Suba Chandran
Every death in the Kashmir valley is interpreted in myriad ways – from murder, assassination, conspiracy, admonition to internal strife, depending on who is expressing it and from where it is being expressed. Many, including some of his critics, argue today that the Maulana has been martyred. However, establishing his martyrdom raises three simple questions: by whom, for what purpose and how many more will have to be ‘martyred’, before the Indians stand up as a state, nation and people?
Meanwhile, how is Maulana Shaukat Shah to be understood in the backdrop of his varied opinions articulated in the recent years? As a leader of the Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadees, he remarked on several religious issues; as a politico-religious being he tried to blend religion and politics; as a personality he has been closely identified with Yasin Malik; and recently he was dubbed as an Indian agent by a faction within Kashmir, especially following the controversial fatwa statement – ‘stone throwing by the youth is un-Islamic’.
Then, who really was Maulana Shaukat Shah? The unfortunate truth about Kashmir valley is that only an individual himself knows what he really believes in and how far it is different from what he speaks in the public. It is possible that perhaps the Maulana himself may not have known or foreseen – who would kill him and for what reasons. Thus it is significant to reflect on what actually might have caused his death.
The first possibility is that Maulana Shaukat Shah was killed because of an internal conspiracy. A section in Kashmir believes that the schism between Sufism and the puritanical versions is increasingly getting violent. Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadith which the Maulana headed, is itself divided into various factions and there were indictments about how the Maulana led the movement since his take over in 1999. It is not a mere coincidence, that his predecessor – Professor Mohammad Ramzan was also assassinated.
Second, it is probable that the Maulana was assassinated given his perception being an Indian agent. A section within Kashmir believes that the Maulana was a part of the pro-independence movements since 2007 and had changed his mind only after his arrest in 2008.
Third, it is likely that the Maulana was assassinated as a warning signal to the moderates in the separatist camp. The statement made by Hafeez Saeed, in a memorial meeting in Islamabad for the Maulana is extremely important and needs further analysis in this regard. He was quoted in the local news papers in Pakistan stating – “We don’t believe in cricket diplomacy or any other backdoor channel that the government adopts with India,” and “Mujahideen (freedom fighters) are determined to continue their struggle till the logical end of the Kashmir movement.”
What does the above statement reflect? Is it the usual rhetoric or Hafiz Saeed making a statement in memorial meeting of Maulana Showkat? Worse, is he highlighting what is likely to be the Lashkar strategy vis-à-vis Kashmir?
Shaukat Aziz’s killers may or may not be nabbed, but a clear pattern is emerging since the 1990s. Ever since the killing of the Mirwaiz in 1990 – Maulvi Mohammad Farooq, there has been a series of assassinations of religious leaders, including Qazi Nisar Ahmed’s elimination in 1994. If one has to expand this pattern to include the assassinations of the separatist political leaders including Abdul Ghani Lone (2002), one will observe that the moderate voices are being targeted. In fact, the trend is becoming progressively self evident.
While the above analysis may implicate the non-state actors led by the Lashkar as the main culprits, the state cannot be totally absolved from these assassinations. Even if there is a small chance for peace, the state is obligated to play a role (perhaps an indirect one) in silencing the trouble-makers, most often by not providing them enough space and scope to mobilize believers in violence. The moderate voices in any conflict situation which speak for peace need to be strengthened by expanding their constituency.
Unfortunately no major actions have been taken by the union government in recent years which can be construed as an effective strategy to strengthen the moderate voices. For New Delhi, the absence of violence has meant establishment of peace. Since there has been less violence, it has been assumed that normalcy has returned to the Kashmir valley and hence there is no further need for action. Reduction in infiltration along the LoC has been automatically taken to mean that terrorism has declined in Kashmir.
Moreover, the civil society has also lacked initiative in eliminating this lack of concern. It watches the entire process guardedly – protesting vociferously against whom it can and remaining silent on the power-wielders. And the few who raise their voices are silenced, most often brutally. The fact remains that Maulana Sahukat was assassinated in April 2011. But it will be difficult to uncover the truth behind this fact. It is hard to say how long this cycle will continue given the current realities. And even more disconcerting to imagine how many more people will die before the Indians wake up as a state, nation and society and say enough is enough.
D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS & Visiting Professor, Pakistan Studies Programme, Jamia Millia Islamia
email: [email protected]