(1955- April 8, 2011)
When his friends coerced him, literally, to lead prayers in a newly built mosque in Lal Bazar, Showkat Ahmad Shah was just a commoner with a modest socio-economic profile. His knowledge was what he had inherited as he could not study formally for too long. He would earlier sell Kashmir’s famed shawls in Calcutta.
But Shah’s growth trajectory took steep rise after Jamiat-e-Ahli hadees unit Lal Bazar nominated him as their representative to party’s headquarters. Within a few years he became head of Tableegh (preaching) activities of the Jamiat and by 2004 he was the president of over a century old puritanical religious party replacing Ghulam Nabi Parray. For most of the last nine years he headed the Jamiat, Shah, 56 remained in news for one or the other reason.
Jamiat elects its president for a three year term and Shah retained the position for three consecutive terms. “He never lost an election,” remembers his friend, confidant and follower in the party Abdul Hamid Punjabi, adding, “We loved him for being brave, and transparent.”During his tenure, Punjabi said, the party expanded and “all the misconceptions were cleared that were usually being played against us.” Shah, he said, visited Ladakh and remote parts of Jammu to organize the party.
This, he asserted, triggered factions within the party. “It was beginning of a new era,” he added. Apart from getting religious scholar Zakir Naik of Peace TV fame, to Srinagar, Shah had recently flown to Delhi to invite visiting Imam of the holy Kaaba to Srinagar.However, it was Shah’s dabbling into the hard political issues that landed him into controversies. The recent one was his stand on stone pelting. Off late, Shah was frequently seen with JKLF leader Mohammad Yasin Malik. Though he usually talked the language of moderates, Shah never joined them formally. His page on Facebook explains the dangerous life Shah lived.
Shah was finally killed in an IED blast when he was about to enter a mosque in Maisuma for offering Friday prayers. He was the second Jamiat president who was assassinated. Earlier it was Prof Ramzan who was shot dead in 2004.
Being Jamiat president was never a fulltime job till Shah took over. He could do it only because his two brothers were managing the family. One of his brothers is a government employee and another works in Saudi Arabia. He is survived by a son and a daughter besides the widow. His son has just completed his MBA.