People associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu Kashmir, a registered political party with over eight lakh members, have been on the run since the February 28 Union home ministry notification declaring it an “unlawful” association under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Citing activities “prejudicial to internal security and public order”, with the “potential of disrupting unity and integrity”, the ban followed a crackdown on Jamaat members coinciding with growing India-Pakistan tensions. A police officer says there has been no FIR with such charges—“not even an intelligence diary entry”—since the Jamaat declared it was not in favour of armed insurgency in 1998.
This is the third ban in the history of the organisation founded in 1942. Besides the Jamaat head office and all its sub-offices, a number of houses of Jamaat workers have been sealed. “A revenue officer came with the police to our house last week and sealed it,” says a worker’s son in uptown Srinagar. “Then they called my father to the police station, from where he was sent to Srinagar central jail.”
“The ban has become a poll issue for every party and the first thing any elected government would do is lift the ban,” says a police officer. Indeed, from former CM Omar Abdullah of the National Conference to former bureaucrat Shah Faesal, the entire Kashmiri mainstream has made this demand. Omar condemned the sealing of the Jamaat-run mosques and schools, all registered with the government and following the prescribed syllabus. “I was called by the police and they took my home address,” says the principal of one such school in Srinagar.
“Why is the Centre so uncomfortable with the Jamaat?” asks former CM Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP. “Radicalised Hindu groups are given carte blanche to spread misinformation and vitiate the atmosphere. But an organisation that has worked tirelessly for Kashmiris is banned. Is being anti-BJP anti-national now?” Following the reaction of the regional parties, governor Satya Pal Malik accused them of supporting violence and separatism.
Founded by a Kashmiri, Maulana Saad-ud-Din, the organisation separated from the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in 1953 as the J&K Jammat considers Kashmir a ‘disputed territory’ and seeks resolution through the right to self-determination. The first ban came in 1975 during the Emergency because of its opposition to the accord between then PM Indira Gandhi and J&K CM Sheikh Abdullah. And in April 1979, mobs allegedly associated with the National Conference launched violent attacks on the Jamaat to protest the hanging of former Pakistan PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
In 1990, when armed actions backed by mass uprising started in the Valley, the largest indigenous militant organisation, the Hizbul Mujahideen, called itself the Jamaat’s ‘military wing’. Elders in the Jamaat such as Qari Saif-ud-Din opposed the armed movement, but many others supported it actively. The Jamaat was banned a second time, followed by the killing of hundreds of its activists in the mid-1990s by the Ikhwan, the illegal counterinsurgent force comprising surrendered militants.
In 1997, the Jamaat openly distanced itself from the armed organisations, leading to accusations from the pro-freedom camp of being sympathetic towards Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s People’s Democratic Party. In fact, police officers agree that the Jamaat has stayed away not just from the armed movement, but also from all agitational politics. It suspended Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Ashraf Sehrai from its basic membership. In its latest statement, the Jamaat has reiterated that it is not part of any of the factions of the Hurriyat Conference, challenging the state administration or the intelligence agencies to cite a single example showing its involvement even in peaceful agitation.
By Naseer Ganai in Srinagar