Jammu City: On February 28, the Central government announced a blanket ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami (J&K), after arresting scores of its members. It accused the organisation of “indulging in activities which are prejudicial to internal security and public order and [have] potential of disrupting the unity and integrity of the country.”
As it happens, the Jamaat-e-Islami is not the only religious organisation that is restricted in the state. Under the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) – which expanded rapidly in the state under the three-year alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – has also been ‘banned’ since 1971.
Rule 14, sub rule 4, of the J&K Government Employees Conduct Rules, 1971 clearly states that the RSS and Jamaat-e-Islami are “anti-secular and communal organisations” and no government employee shall be members of either.
Moreover, the rule says, if any government employee is found directly or indirectly participating in the activities of these organisations, they are liable for disciplinary action.
Other organisations have also been categorised in the same manner, under the same rule, which reads:
“Association with the activities of anti-secular and communal organisations. Government have held the activities of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Rashtirya Swayam Sewak Sangh, Islamic Study Circle, Anand Marg, Proutist Forum of India and Proutist League and such other Associations as may be specified by the Government from time to time, to be of such a nature that any association or participation in their activities directly or indirectly by any Government employee shall attract the provisions of these rules. Any Government employee who is found to be a member of or is otherwise associated with the aforesaid organisations or with their activities is liable to disciplinary action.”
Behind the bans
The Jamaat-e-Islami was founded in 1941, as an Islamic social movement meant to spread conservative Wahhabi practice and influence. The following year, Balraj Madhok arrived in Kashmir as a pracharak of the RSS, establishing shakhas in Jammu and later in the Valley. The first chairman (sanghchalak) of the RSS in Jammu was Prem Nath Dogra.
During Partition, large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs from Rawalpindi and Sialkot began to arrive in the Jammu Division, bringing harrowing stories of Muslim atrocities. Jammu was also convulsed with retaliatory violence against local Muslims.
According to scholar Ilyas Chattha, the violence in Jammu’s eastern districts, which started in September 1947, developed into a widespread massacre – facilitated by the Dogra troops of the princely state, perpetrated by local Hindus, including members of the Jammu RSS.
Central government’s similar rule regarding RSS and Jamaat-e-Islami
The Jamaat-e-Islami J&K has been banned before, in 1990. That ban lapsed in 1995. The RSS, meanwhile, has been banned three times since India’s independence:
- On February 4, 1948, by home minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel, after the assassination of Gandhi;
- On July 4, 1975, along with 25 other organisations, during the Emergency; and
- On December 10, 1992, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
The RSS claims it is a cultural organisation, but even the Central government has not traditionally agreed. Since 1966, government officials have been barred from participating in RSS activities under conduct rules. Rule 5(1) of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, say,
“No Government servant shall be a member of, or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall he take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity.”
According to a report in the Indian Express,
“After clarifications were sought on whether the RSS was a “political party”, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a circular on November 30, 1966: “Certain doubts have been raised about Government’s policy with respect to the membership or any participation in the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and the Jamaat-e-Islami by Government servants, it is clarified that Government have always held the activities of these two organisations to be of such nature that participation in them by Government servants would attract the provisions of sub-rule (1) of Rule 5 of the CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964. Any government servant, who is a member of or otherwise associated with the aforesaid organisations or with their activities, is liable to disciplinary action.”
In January 1980, Indira Gandhi returned to power after defeating the Janata Party government, of which the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (the forerunner of the BJP) was a part. The question of whether ministers could maintain their ties to the RSS had already caused serious strain within the Janata alliance.
On October 28, 1980, a circular was issued, reiterating the message of the earlier circular of 1966 with reference to the RSS:
“In the context of the current situation in the country, the need to ensure secular outlook on the part of Government servants is all the more important. The need to eradicate communal feelings and communal bias cannot be over-emphasised.”
There has been no change in the legal position of this provision even through the first BJP national governments from 1998 to 2004, when a swayamsewak, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was prime minister. Thus the provision added to the Conduct Rules in 1966 remains applicable to date.
Only the state governments of Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have passed instructions, in 2006 and 2004 respectively, permitting government employees to join the RSS.
Pallavi Sareen is a journalist from Jammu & Kashmir. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org