Last week’s killing of a prominent Kashmiri religious leader, Maulana Showkat Shah, has prompted concerns that the hardline separatist elements - armed and otherwise - would try to keep the Valley on the boil this summer too.
Shah’s killing is indicative to how far the hardliners in the Valley are willing to go to ensure a repeat of last summer’s protests on the streets of Kashmir, a senior official in the security establishment said.
The religious leader had fiercely opposed last year’s stone-throwing by youngsters, prompting him to be dubbed an ‘Indian agent’ and receiving death threats.
He died on Friday in a powerful bomb blast outside Ahilhadith mosque in Gaw Kadal area near the city centre, Lal Chowk. The explosive was triggered when Shah was about to enter the mosque for Friday prayers.
“It is no coincidence that 489 militants infiltrated in 2010, nearly the same figures as 485 the previous years,” a security official said.
However, he said, the security forces were taking all efforts this year to ensure that the casualties in the street protests were kept at a minimum by use of non-lethal weapons of crowd control.
Over a hundred civilians had died in police action to dispel protesters in 1,732 incidents of stone pelting last year.
“It was a vicious cycle… every death of protestors prompted more people to come on the streets,” he said.
Besides, the Centre also hopes an early implementation of the Rangarajan report on creation of jobs and the confidence building steps taken by the Dilip Padgaonkar-led panel of interlocutors would help keep peace.
There is an effort, aided from across the border, that these initiatives do not change the situation.
“Shah’s murder is also a reflection how moderate voices and those who advocate peace are silenced in the Valley,” a source said.
Shah had met one of the interlocutors, appointed by the Centre, and discussed with him a possible road map for bringing peace in the Valley. “Shah’s murder was carried out following directives from militant elements,” the source said.