Crackdown and subsequent ban on Jamaat-e-Islami will only push the outfit to hardline activities and question the very essence of mainstream as Jamaat dissociated from militancy 22 years back, reports Ajaz Rashid

As usually happens in Kashmir, the cost of Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF men were killed and the Indian general elections is being borne by the wrong people, thanks to the flawed policies of New Delhi on Kashmir. The ban on Jamaat-i-Islami Jammu Kashmir has come as one of the most unexpected fallouts but it is not something that New Delhi is not known for.

The ban on Jamaat issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after a high-level meeting on security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sudden and unforeseen. The development comes out of blue considering that the socio-politico-religious organisation has long back dissociated itself from militancy.

However, this did not stop Government of India from accusing the party of indulging in activities “prejudicial to internal security and public order” and also of being “involved in anti-national and subversive activities in the country and is in close touch with militant outfits”.

Even before the ban, hundreds of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders were arrested in a massive crackdown by Police.

Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir is an independent organisation – separate from Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, which supports the peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue as per the United Nations resolutions or through tripartite talks between New Delhi, Islamabad and the real representatives of Jammu Kashmir.

Jamaat-e-Islamia has for years been rendering yeoman services in the State. Where the Government of India and the subsequent State governments have failed to establish schools, Jamaat has opened a chain of educational institutions, where the government has failed to take care of the orphans and the needy, Jamaat has established orphanages.

While religious instruction in these schools is compulsory, it is not the paramount focus of education. Jamaat schools have produced doctors, engineers, scientists, academicians and administrators, some of who occupy posts in the higher echelons of the State’s bureaucracy.

Realising that the government would come to a cropper in dealing with the situation arising from ban on schools and orphanages, the Jammu and Kashmir government said the schools, Masjids and orphanages being run by Jamaat had been kept outside the ambit of seizure.

State government’s spokesman Rohit Kansal said, “Schools, Masjids and orphanages have been kept outside the scope of seizures and sealing in the wake of the ban imposed by the government on Jamaat-e-Islamia Jammu Kashmir. The action is being taken against offices, assets, properties and other equipment of the banned organisation.”

Jamaat is a cadre-based party but over the past 30 years, it has largely restricted itself to the propagation of religion and stayed away from politics. The organisation has preferred to stay in the background and since late-nineties onwards, it dissociated from the militancy and any kind of underground activities. Furthermore, Jamaat has also not been part of Kashmir’s most popular separatist organisation All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) for a long time now.

The Jamaat has taken part in electoral processes in the State by fielding its candidates in the Legislative Assembly polls of 1971, 1977, 1983 and 1987. However, it has stayed away from the process after the Valley witnessed armed rebellion in late eighties.

Imposing a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami in Jammu and Kashmir is seen as Government of India’s another offensive against the people of the Valley. The order implementing the ban on Jamaat comes close on the heels of threats of abrogation of Articles 35-A and Article 370, which accord a special status to the State.

This has further antoganised the people of Kashmir as they find themselves under the assault of New Delhi. The anger against the decision of banning Jamaat could  be gauged with the fact that not only the separatist organizations like the APHC but also the mainstream organisations like National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress, CPI (M) and even Peoples Conference (PC) that is considered to be an ally of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have opposed the Government of India’s decision of banning the Jamaat.

The decision of banning Jamaat evoked a widespread response with Kashmir witnessing a complete shutdown on the call of the business community.

“New Delhi is pushing the people of Kashmir to the wall, which can evoke volatile combinations of emotions that in turn will leave negative effects on the ground situation,” said Muhammad Yasin Khan, Chairman of Kashmir Economic Alliance, a conglomerate of various trade bodies.

The mainstream politicians including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, and BJP’s mascot in Kashmir Sajad Gani Lone have all expressed reservations over banning the Jamaat.

“Currently, there is an atmosphere of revenge against Kashmiris. Youth are being arrested and particularly Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a social and political organisation, is being subjected to political revenge,” Mehbooba said while scores of PDP workers hit the roads in Srinagar shouting slogans of ‘Stop state terrorism’.

 

Like Mehbooba, another former chief minister and NC Vice President Omar Abdullah said, “Our party and the Jamaat are poles apart ideologically. There is a stark difference in the disposition of both parties. But, at the same time, I’m of the view that the move will inadvertently affect the peacebuilding efforts. We may disagree with the ideology of the Jamaat but the move will unquestionably breed more radicalisation.”

However, BJP and other like-minded parties justified the ban on the Jamaat.

“It was long overdue,” said BJP State President Ravinder Raina.

He said Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was the brainchild of Jamaat and the organisation was also largely responsible for the secessionist activities and violence in the State.

The Government of India banned the Jamat-e-Islami Jammu Kashmir under anti-terror law on grounds that it was “in close touch” with militant outfits and was expected to “escalate secessionist movement” in the State.

This draws home the point that Government of India has either a very poor understanding of Kashmir or wants to use this development to garner votes across mainland India in the upcoming general elections on the anti-Kashmir plank.

Before Kashmiris picked up arms in late eighties, Jamaat participated in elections. In 1987, it was due to the Jamaat-formed Muslim United Front (MUF) that assembly polls witnessed a massive participation of Kashmiris, however, the large-scale rigging and manipulation of polls by NC-Congress came as a rude shock to the people of Kashmir and their confidence in the democratic process eroded further as most of the elections held in the State since India’s independence have been rigged. After the 1987 rigged polls in which people like Muhammad Yusuf Shah, who is known more by his nom de guerre Syed Salahuddin, the United Jehad Council’s chief, Shabir Shah’s brother Sayeed Shah, and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Chairman Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai participated, Kashmiri youth picked up guns as an alternate means to make their voice heard.

Jamaat was banned in 1990 as well and the ban continued for two years. Even after the ban on the organisation ended, it remained dormant at least until 1997 when it again started its activities when Ghulam Muhammad Bhat took over as the organisation’s Ameer in 1997.

A suave politician, Bhat announced dissociation of the Jamaat from any kind of militant and underground activities. He was among the first significant leaders who sought the issue of Kashmir should be resolved through peaceful means and dialogue and expelled several members of the party having militant connections.

For the past decade, Jamaat is not associated with any of the two factions of the APHC and only restricted itself to social and religious work. Jamaat’s runs over 300 schools having over one lakh students where only government-approved syllabus and NCRT books are taught.

These schools are also a source of employment to hundreds of people.

Furthermore, the organisation has been at the forefront of helping poor, orphans and destitute. Thus banning an outfit like Jamaat would not only have a huge social impact on Kashmir but also leave many employed youth jobless.

In 1975 too, Jamaat was banned by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah who felt threatened by the organisation deep reach. Today even his grandson, Omar Abdullah is against the ban.

The worst development following the ban on Jamaat came with the local administration proving to be more loyal than the king, sealing the personal properties of Jamaat families.

The ban on Jamaat may only prove counter-productive for New Delhi. In 1990 when the outfit was banned, many of its members went on to pick up guns and later Hizb-ul-Mujahideen came to be known as the armed wing of the Jamaat. Pushed to the wall, if the Jamaat reacts this time, in the same manner, some of its members did in the early nineties, the consequences could be far-reaching for New Delhi. The ban would likely push the Jamaat more toward hardline activities and question the very essence of mainstream in the State as Jamaat has dissociated from militancy 22 years back. The appeals of the pro-India players asking the separatists to join the mainstream has brought focus on the mainstream with the ban on Jamaat, which has openly called for peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue and sidelines itself from the armed movement.

 

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