Misfortune and bloodshed seem to visit themselves on Kashmir as relentlessly as the Furies in a Greek tragedy. The latest round of disquiet follows the recent assassination of Jamiat-e-Ahli-Hadees' Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah, a moderate cleric though of the puritanical Wahabbi mould. Since unknown gunmen carried out the dastardly act, speculation - a potent catalyst for violence - is rife on who killed the Maulana who was vocal against all forms of violence in the Valley. Last year, he had openly condemned the stone-pelting incidents, saying that such disruptive activities were un-Islamic. For his stand, he earned the ire of hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani. In fact, after his killing, Mr Geelani termed the incident as the "the handiwork of the anti-Kashmiri and anti-Islam". Other than the fact that the Valley has lost a strong moderate and calming voice, comments like these have the potential to stir up another round of violence in the state.
While it is very important to nab the Maulana's killers as soon as possible and ensure that justice is done, the government should also consider Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq's proposal. In a positive move, the Mirwaiz has called upon New Delhi to facilitate the establishment of a Kashmir group in Parliament, comprising senior representatives of major political parties and Kashmiri representatives. In the same breath, however, he also talked about engaging Pakistan - a plan that is sure to not go down well with New Delhi. The killing also gives credence to what senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Bhat had said last year that murders like these could be the handiwork of people who see any kind of dialogue process and movement on the Kashmir issue as antithetical to their cause. The Indo-Pak Mohali bonhomie and also the positive response the three central interlocutors have received in the state must be worrying to such people. While Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front's Yasin Malik has promised not to resort to street fights and protests, there will be many others who may see this as an opportunity to trigger another round of violence. The challenge will be to contain such moves. This killing, though regrettable, should be an opportunity for the separatist parties to look into the negative culture of violence in the state and weed out those who threaten to kill moderate voices and any move for peace in the state.
Unlike in earlier instances, chief minister Omar Abdullah reacted quickly and visited the family of the slain religious leader. In the world of politics, such gestures can go a long way in calming nerves and lowering the chances of debilitating violence.