Prominent religious leader Moulvi Showkat Ahmad Shah, who denounced the violent protests that killed more than 115 people in Jammu and Kashmir last year and who was engaged in talks with the Centre's interlocutors, was killed in a bomb blast near a mosque here on Friday.
He was seriously injured as an improvised explosive device kept on a cycle outside the mosque exploded ahead of the Friday prayers at Maisuma adjacent to the Lal Chowk. He was declared brought dead in a hospital, the police said.
Shah (55), chief of the Jamiat-e-Ahlihadith, had survived two attempts on his life. Militants fired at his car in 2006 and hurled a grenade at his house at Lal Bazar on the outskirts of the city in 2008.
He had met one of the interlocutors and discussed a possible road map for restoring peace.
Shah was among the first to demand a fresh inquiry into the killings of separatist leaders Mirwaiz Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone and Qazi Nissar.
Taking their cue from him, Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Bhat and Sajjad Lone had declared that these leaders were killed by “our own men.”
The moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference has called for a shutdown on Saturday, while the hard-line group termed the killing an “act of terrorism.”
Chairman of the moderate faction Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in a statement Shah always toed the path of righteousness.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the killing was “senseless” and urged for calm.
Peoples' Democratic Party leaders Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti said it was “another painful addition to the larger Kashmir saga.”
Dileep Padgaonkar, who heads the team of interlocutors, said: “This is a reprehensible act, and it runs counter to the Kashmiri tradition of tolerance of all faiths and opinions.”
Shah, who was criticised by the hardliners backing the stone-throwing protests, had challenged the perpetrators to cite even one sermon from the Islamic religious texts which supports such acts.
Known for advocating puritanical Islam, he had issued a fatwa against violent protests.
Hardliner Syed Ahmed Shah Geelani had criticised him for issuing the fatwa.
He was tech-savvy, having a public figure page on Facebook, where many threatening messages were posted by his opponents.