Separatist leaders on Wednesday distanced Kashmir’s separatist movement from last week’s assassination of revered cleric Maulvi Showkat Shah, saying an errant militant was to be blamed for the crime.
“The black sheep who are out to kill prominent social and political leaders in the Valley have to be identified,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads a faction of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference.
“They cannot be allowed to carry on activities which harm the interests of Kashmiris and devoid Kashmiris of the great minds. The separatists leadership cannot sit quietly while our great leaders are being killed one by one,” Farooq said at an all-party meeting called by the religious organisation Jamiat Ahle Hadith, which was headed by Shah.
The Jamiat has over a million followers and 800 mosques in Jammu and Kashmir. Both factions of the Hurriyat attended the meeting.
JKLF chief Yasin Malik, an associate of Shah, said the cleric was not engaged with interlocutors appointed by the Indian government, and used to visit Delhi to get clearances for his university, “which is not a sin”. “We have to identify the people who have killed him as they are harming Kashmiri interest.”
Jamiat leaders said they suspected a conspiracy behind the assassination as Shah had spoken openly against stone pelting and for return of peace. A panel was constituted to probe the assassination.
Government agencies are also investigating it separately. Participants of the meeting unanimously accepted that Shah’s assassin should be brought before the people. They also appealed to the people, especially the youth, to show restraint and not resort to “un-Islamic means like stone pelting”.
Maulvi Shah was killed last week when an explosive device, placed on a bicycle outside a mosque in Srinagar, went off just as he was about to enter the mosque to lead the Friday prayers.
The state government on Monday offered security cover to separatist leaders as the threat perception following the assassination of Shah had increased considerably.