Srinagar: Six days after the police launched a crackdown on Jama’at-e-Islamia (JeI) Jammu and Kashmir, arresting its leaders and supporters, the Centre on Thursday banned the organisation on the grounds that it was “supporting” militancy and was expected to “escalate secession movement” across India.
The decision followed a high-level meeting on security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.
Declaring Jama’at an “unlawful association”, the Centre banned the religo-political group for five years. It said the party was in “close touch” with militant outfits and supported extremism and militancy in the state and elsewhere.
“JeI is involved in anti-national and subversive activities in the country intended to cause disaffection,” said the notification banning the group under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The Centre also reasoned that the group intended to escalate its “subversive” activities, including an “attempt to carve out Islamic state out of the Union of India by destablising” the government established law and that the group was expected to “escalate secessionist movement, support militancy and incite violence”.
The ban comes after the police arrested JeI chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz, his deputy G.A. Parray, some ex-heads of the group, district presidents, and chief spokesperson Zahid Ali, among others, in raids held during the intervening night of February 22 and 23. The group has said the number of those arrested is over 300.
“The Centre is of the opinion if the subversive activities of JeI are not curbed and controlled it will continue advocating secession of J&K from Union of India while disputing accession of the state with Union of the India,” the notification said.
How was JeI, J&K formed?
Jama’at was founded by renowned theologian and ideologue Abul A’la Maududi in 1941 to promote moral values and Islamic teachings, as well as to achieve positive socio-structural changes in the society. After the Partition, the group got split into Jama’at-e-Islami Pakistan and Jama’at-e-Islami Hind.
Five years later JeI, following differences with parent body Jama’at-e-Islami Hind over political ideology and the Kashmir issue, JeI, J&K came into the existence.
“It was done mainly to divorce Jama’at (J&K) from workings under pressures of Jama’at e Islami Hind and also to challenge the forced accession. Jama’at also accepted that disputed nature of Kashmir conflict can only be resolved through United Nations resolutions and called for the right to self determination for Kashmir,” wrote Iymon Majid, a Kashmiri PhD scholar, in a paper for the International Journal of Social Science and Economic Research.
In the years to come, scores of educated and young men got attracted towards the organisations and in November 1953 the party drafted and passed its constitution.
A year later, Sa’aduddin Tarbali was elected as its first amir (head) at a special meeting in Srinagar. Maulana Ahrar, Ghulam Rasul Abdullah and Hakim Ghulam Nabi were among its founding members.
A cadre-based party, Jama’at has a Majlis-e-Shoora (consultative council) at the top which makes the decisions on all key issues. The hierarchy, from bottom up includes sympathiser, affiliate, associate members and basic member, also called a rukun or one who is qualified for any key assignment.
While JeI’s contribution in fields of education and social reform has been acknowledged, it has also built mosques, many of them having attached libraries.
Jama’at’s forays in electoral space
Almost 27 years before it started espousing separatist politics, following the onset of militancy in Kashmir, the JeI, in its central advisory council meeting in 1963, presided over by Tarabali, decided to contest elections.
However the organisation, for the first time participated in the Panchayat elections, in 1969, winning some seats. “More than participation, Jama’at’s intended was to correct the practices that are usually associated with politics. It argued that politics was marred by machinations and that it lacked morality,” argues Majid.
In its February 1970 meeting, the Shoora decided to enter elections at higher level. A year later, JeI took the plunge into parliamentary elections, but lost. The next year, it contested the assembly elections on 22 seats and won five.
The party was reduced to one seat in 1977. Two years later, when former prime minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged, Jama’at faced the brunt in Kashmir. “People in Kashmir reacted to it (hanging) in most unusual way and went on a rampage for a week destroying Jama’at property… burning ‘Jama’at books’,” Iymon writes.
But the group moved on and it contested 1983 state elections. This time it however drew a blank. In 1987, two years before Kashmir would erupt in mass rebellion, Jama’at became an important constituent of a large political formation, Muslim United Front (MUF), which was pitted against National Conference-Congress alliance in the state elections.
It won four seats, amid allegations of mass rigging as NC-Congress swept the polls.
The post ’90s era
A year later the armed struggle broke out in Kashmir. The “rigged elections” proved a catalyst that led to growing disillusionment in Kashmir. The Jama’at, which had stayed clear of any violent movements, joined in. One of the MUF candidates Mohammad Yusuf Shah was declared a loser. Many believe that Shah had won his Amira Kadal seat. He would later cross LoC for arms training to become Syed Salahudin, head of United Jehad Council, a conglomeration of 22 militant outfits.
By the early ’90s, when the Valley was swept by the wave of militancy and thousands of youth had crossed the LoC to get arms training, Hizbul Mujahideen’s militant outfit declared that it was JeI’s military wing. In the years that followed, hundreds of the JeI activists were killed by counter-insurgent force Ikhwan, which saw the group finally distancing itself from militancy in 1997.
“…JeI J&K had transformed itself into more of a socio-religious than politico-religious organisation. The focus had shifted to education, welfare activities and humanitarian rescue and relief. I am surprised by the ban on JeI J&K at a time when the organisation has been trying very hard to move on,” former civil servant Shah Faesal wrote on Facebook, adding it was unfortunate that the Centre’s Kashmir policy was being driven “more by perception and hearsay” rather than by data and evidence.
“This decision won’t help much in containing the situation in Kashmir. May good sense prevail,” Faesal wrote.
The JeI, which maintains that J&K is a disputed territory, and seeks its resolution through right to self-determination, was a key member of undivided Hurriyat Conference since its inception in 1993 till 2003, when the amalgam witnessed a vertical split.
This is not for the first time that the organisation has been banned. It was first banned in 1975 by then chief minister Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah after then prime minister Indira Gandhi declared emergency in India in 1975.
“Abdullah took the alibi of emergency to crush his political opponents, mainly Jamaat-e-Islami. Many Jama’at leaders including all of its five members in the assembly were arrested. Its schools were permanently closed, newspapers seized, publications banned and other leaders also jailed,” writes Majid.
Azan, a daily newspaper run by the organisation was also banned. The ban on JeI lasted for two years. Today, it publishes a weekly – Momin.
The then governor Jagmohan banned the group for second time in 1990 soon after eruption of militancy. The ban continued till 1995.
A senior Jama’at leader described the ban as “nothing new”. “This iron fist policy hasn’t succeeded in the past five years, it won’t work either now,” he said on the condition of anonymity, adding many of the group offices were sealed by J&K administration today.
In a statement, the JeI said it was being targeted for “reasons unknown” to them. “The use of muscular policy will further destabilise the situation in South Asia. Instead, sincere efforts should be made to solve the long-pending dispute of Kashmir,” it said.
An ostrich like approach, says Mehbooba
Criticising imposition of the ban on Jama’at Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti said the decision would further shrink the space for political rapprochement and reconciliation in J&K.
Mehbooba was the first mainstream politician to condemn the government of India’s action. In the past Jama’at has faced accusations of supporting the PDP during elections held in the state.
The former chief minister, Mehbooba said the Centre was taking “ostrich like approach” towards Kashmir which is reeling under dreadful crisis. “Jama’at-i-Islamia has been credited for running schools and is a socio- religious organisation which is totally non-violent and the organisation has on many occasions publicly disapproved of violence as a method of political struggle. “
“It seems the government of India is now completely depending on force as a measure to subjugate people of state,” she said in a strongly-worded statement.