‘What We Faced is Not Peaceful Protests, as Claimed, but Large Stone-Pelting Mobs and Attempts at Arson’
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, S.M. Sahai
What does Maulana Shaukat Ahmed Shah’s assassination suggest? Is there desperation among certain people to silence the moderate voices?

That the religious and political leaders of Kashmir are under threat is universal fact. Whether they follow a religiously moderate line or a pro-government political line or even a moderate separatist line, they fall out with the terrorist organisations or the Pakistani agenda. So they always come under threat in varying degrees from time to time. And we have been giving them protection, which we have increased since Maulana Shaukat’s death. In fact, Maulana himself was under protection. Attempts were made on his life earlier, but there was nothing specific lately about enhanced threat to his life. In hindsight, it appears that his open opposition to stone-pelting which he called unIslamic was not liked in certain quarters. He was also talking in terms of peace and reconciliation, all the while keeping his organisation out of politics. This clearly was not going down well with people intending to create trouble here.
But how could Ahl-e-Hadis be completely out of politics when he was closely associated with Yasin Malik and Hurriyat Conference (M)?

It is true that Maulana Shaukat shared the platform with some of the Separatist leaders, but he kept his organisation Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadis out of politics. Even his personal association with political players was of a moderate nature.

FORCE had met Maulana Shaukat in October 2010, when he admitted that he allowed some of his boys to go and participate in protests because they were restless sitting at home when everyone else was out throwing stones. So there was some degree of political consciousness within the Ahl-e-Hadis cadre.

There is no way of verifying why he said that now. But even if this happened, I wouldn’t like to believe that the boys were allowed to go out with any sense of responsibility, because he has openly spoken against stone-pelting. He is on record saying that. The fact is that he headed a very large organisation and in such a large organisation a few errant people can always be expected, especially in the view of the situation that we saw last year and how it affected the youth.

There is a background to why I am saying that he kept his organisation out of politics. A former president of Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadis was killed in 1997. The leader of Ahl-e-Hadis has always been under attack, because this is the only organisation which does not talk about Kashmir in its resolution. It only talks about religion, in a sharp contrast to Jamaat-e-Islami which does talk about Kashmir being a dispute in its resolution. This is something which the terrorist organisations resent about Ahl-e-Hadis. In the past, there was a time some members of Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadis had moved away from this purely religious orientation and had tried to recruit some members of the Jamiat for the now almost defunct Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen and also Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba. Maulana Shaukat had succeeded in putting a stop to this, and by doing this he became an obstacle in the way of the extremist elements taking over the organisation.

What implication will Maulana Shaukat’s death have for you in terms of law and order in the coming months and what will be the implication for the Separatists?

There were a few attempts immediately after his death to create some sort of disturbance. There was stone-pelting in some parts of Srinagar, but it was very, very muted. In fact, even at Maulana’s funeral procession, there was a presence of some miscreants and I believe members of Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadis were quite perturbed about their presence. We are aware that there is a group of radicals floating around here who would try to hijack these issues. As far as Separatist leaders are concerned, we have offered them enhanced security. But actually if one were to look back at the earlier killings of religious or moderate leaders like the Mirwaiz, Abdul Ghani Lone or even the earlier Jamiat president, these are attempts to hijack their base by the use of terror. The implications for the Separatists leaders are quite bad; whichever way they move, they will remain vulnerable. And I think they realise it too. When Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat said a few months ago that our own men were killed by one of our own, he expressed their collective dilemma.

After the Maulana death, during his Friday prayer, Mirwaiz said that the Central government should institute a Parliamentary committee to interact with the Separatist leadership in the Valley at one level and on another level India and Pakistan should start a dialogue process with the Kashmiris. Do you think he is saying this of his own free will or his he under pressure of the extremists?

One thing is clear. The gun has failed in Kashmir. They are also realising that the stone-pelting that they have been indulging in will also not yield any dividends. There is a certain contradiction in this whole situation. The Panchayat elections process has started and the response so far has been very good. Barring one, there has been no political killing so far. Even though the Separatists have been giving calls for boycott, they are half-hearted and people, in any case, are not heeding it.

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