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Muzzling Moderation in Kashmir and Implications
   
 
 
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Muzzling Moderation in Kashmir and Implications

 
Monday, 18 April 2011 12:14
 
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by Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra (EPOS)
EPOS Insights

The killing of Maulana Showkat Ahmed Shah on 8 April 2011 besides silencing a voice of moderation in Kashmir, also gave rise to the prospects of hardening of the radical agenda towards promoting violent means for conflict resolution in Kashmir. Within a week of his death, the radical pronouncements have been reinforced, with the radical leaders demanding for plebiscite (dormant few months back), inviting outside powers like the UK to intervene in the conflict, and also to scuttle all kinds of peace overtures in terms of cricket diplomacy, or initiating peace dialogues by appointing interlocutors and so on. The leader of the notorious extremist organization Jamaad Ud Dawa went a step further, and alluded to the recent Arab revolutions and predicted that the revolution will commence in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Many such pronouncement were made, thus brining into the picture that the killing of the Maulana was a clear cut ploy by the radicals to dissent the voice of moderation and raise up the ante in the Kashmir valley to their advantage.

No one says that the Maulana was a pro-India leader or supported India’s view points on Kashmir. Like many separatists he also demanded for independence of Kashmir. The Maulana headed a variety of Wahabi sect called Jamiat Ahle Hadees, which many ways could be contrasted to the liberal Sufism predominant in Kashmir for centuries. Hence, though the Maulana represented an extremist school and was abhorrent of moderate Islam, nevertheless there was a clear distinction between him and other separatists. As the violence last year in the valley which witnessed more than a hundred deaths unfolded, the Maulana came forward to openly criticize the stone-pelters from where the violence starting in June reached a crescendo towards August. While other radical leaders of Kashmir like Syed Ali Shah Geelani saw the violence an opportunity to pressure India, the Maulana opposed it. And perhaps that sounded his death knell. Even earlier there were attempts at his life twice in 2006 and 20008, but he escaped those attempts.

If one sees the history of the Kashmir movement, particularly aftermath of the militancy in the Kashmir valley, there is a trend clearly discernible that moderate voices are muzzled at every occasion. On a broader classification, the separatists in Kashmir particularly in the valley could be categorized into two: separatists like Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front who aspire for an independent Kashmir, and the separatists who aspire for the merger of Indian part of Kashmir with that of Pakistan and be an integral part of Pakistan.

As the Maulana represented the moderate separatist of the former type, he earned reprobation from the separatists from the latter type, which seem to be in ascendency in recent months. No surprise that the killing provided the occasion to one of the prominent leaders and the founder of Jamaat Ud Dawa in Pakistan, Hafeez Al Saeed to call for all out Jihad against Kashmir in India while attending the condolence meeting for the Maulana in Karachi. Exhorting the name of God, he cried for all out jihad and predicted that the situation has become propitious for both Afghanistan and Kashmir and which must be seized. While Pakistan foreign office condemned the killings as ‘abominable,’ the worrisome development which needs further attention by both the countries India and Pakistan is the ascendancy of extremist elements in both the countries.

The Maulana is not the first moderate to fall to the menace of extremism in Kashmir. In the past two decades many moderate leaders have fallen to the guns of the extremists. Mirwaiz Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, Qazi Nissar and many such moderate voices in Kashmir fell to the bullets of the militants. Abdul Ghani Lone’s fault was that he advocated that the separatists should take part in the electoral process in Kashmir. There has been argument that if the separatists represent the sole voice of Kashmir, then they should show their mettle in elections and show that they represent the people. But, the fact remains that the politics of the region is so factious and so divisive, the region culturally and ethnically so fragmented (Kashmir in fact has three distinct regions: Jammu, Kashmir valley and Ladakh), perhaps this diversity dissuades the separatists to take part in elections. There may be other calculations on part of the separatists as well. However, there are still many moderate voices in Kashmir who advocate for taking part in elections. In last parliamentary elections, the son of Abdul Ghani Lone, Sajjad Lone took part in elections though he lost.

The killing has other implications as well. The killing will definitely discourage the moderates who wanted to join the peace wagon and participate in the round table conference for peace and dialogue supposed to be held by the end of this month. It will also discourage or at least discourage the recently gained optimism for resuming India-Pakistan dialogue. Particularly aftermath of the cricket diplomacy initiated by Manmohan Singh by inviting his Pakistan counterpart to watch world cup semi final cricket match between India and Pakistan at Indian city of Ahmadabad on 30 March 2011, the prospects of resumption of dialogue appeared bright. While addressing the Indian media the Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had expressed optimism that both the countries need to develop good relations to tackle contentious issues. The killing will likely dent this optimism. The killing will likely bolster the militant spirit and discourage the moderate voice and provide causes to worry to the peace loving people in the subcontinent.

The Maulana further added danger to his life when early this year he demanded fresh inquiry into the killings of these moderate leaders mentioned above. His view was supported by many moderate leaders. In fact, one separatist leader Abdul Ghani Bhat went to the extent of saying that these leaders were killed by ‘own people,’ not by Indian security forces. There is a general acceptance among the people that they are killed by the militants. By raking up this sensitive issue which strike at the base of the militants, the Maulana further challenged the militants. The Maulana, for the militant point of view, committed another mistake in meeting the peace interlocutors appointed by the government of India, whose task was to meet the cross sections of the people in Kashmir and provide information back. Almost all separatist leaders rejected the idea of meeting with the interlocutors while the Maulana met them.

Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is part of the research faculty at the Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai, India.

Last modified on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 13:55
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