New Delhi: Civil rights organisation People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has charged that taking advantage of people’s attention being focused on “escalation and de-escalation of tension between India and Pakistan” in February this year, the Centre “intensified repression in the state of Jammu and Kashmir”. It said over 300 people have been detained, and the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami too was “part of this ongoing repression”.
A statement issued by PUDR has claimed that following the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir on February 28, 2019, the state administration has picked up hundreds of persons and booked them under preventive detention laws.
PUDR secretaries Deepika Tandon and Shahana Bhattacharya have claimed that the Centre’s invoking the ban by simply issuing a gazette notification was “illegal”.
Why the ban is not lawful
They said drawing upon the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, the notification stated that the JeI is an “unlawful organisation” and the ban has been invoked with “immediate effect”. “The ‘immediate effect’ clause is meant to override the time lag involved in forming a Tribunal and in adjudicating the Government’s decision (S 4(4)). However, for such a decision to be implemented, the Government must provide ‘additional grounds’ as mandated in the Supreme Court judgment of 1994, Mohammad Jafar v Union of India,” the activists pointed out.
Furthermore, PUDR has noted that UAPA, under which the JeI has been banned, stresses on the primacy of “grounds”. They said it is laid down that “every such notification shall specify the grounds on which it is issued”.
Grounds not specified as per SC direction
Also, the Tribunal, when formed, is required to be furnished with “all the facts on which the grounds are specified in the said notification are based”.
Pointing out that ‘grounds’ are not ‘opinions’ or subsidiary evidence – they comprise facts which are meant to substantiate the notification – the PUDR said the Supreme Court in Vakil Singh vs State of J&K (1974) held that they “must contain the pith and substance of primary facts but not subsidiary facts or evidential details.”
Therefore, PUDR insisted that since it did not specify the ‘grounds’, the February 28 notification banning Jamaat-e-Islami was not lawful and its “immediate effect” clause loses credibility.
Protests against ban being treated as anti-national acts
The civil rights group said that “since the Government has illegally invoked the `immediate effect’ clause, JeI members, sympathisers, supporters as well as their kith and kin automatically become liable to arrest and criminally prosecuted for their membership of, or support for, a banned organisation. Further, any form of legitimate protest on the ban can be treated as an instance of anti-nationalism.”
The PUDR said this is precisely what happened when governor Satya Pal Malik condemned the former People’s Democratic Party chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s protest on the JeI ban as an ‘anti-national’ act.
Recalling previous action against Jamaat, PUDR said it was banned for a few years between 1990 and 95. In 1997, it severed its ties with Hizbul Mujahideen and also with one of its members, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, when he formed Tehreek-i-Hurriyat in 2004.
The civil rights organisation said it was then that JeI declared that it was keen on performing ideological and social work.
History ignored while taking action
“Against this history, the February 28 notification has authorised a crackdown on JeI members and has led to the sealing and seizure of assets of members. The crackdown has a much wider impact, as the JeI runs schools which employ 10,000 teachers and teach as many as 100,000 students, who face a grim future for no fault of theirs,” the organisation said.
Noting that the ban and simultaneous arrests were part and parcel of J&K’s history as a “disturbed area”, PUDR said they have come at a time when “all forms of expression and activities by Kashmiris remain severely curbed and military suppression under Operation All Out continues”.
PUDR said the ban furthers repression by turning legitimate activities into criminal ones. Also, it said, the ban seeks to silence the resistance of the Kashmiris. The organisation cautioned that there may be “intensification of repression on Kashmiris in the aftermath of the February 14 Pulwama suicide bombing and the February 26-27 Indo-Pak escalation and threats of military confrontation.”
It therefore criticised the ban and arrests, and appealed to all democratically minded people to take note of the worsening situation in Kashmir, which is in dire need of political healing and not further repression.