Jamaat-e-Islami JK leaders detained, properties sealed; politicos, separatists in Valley condemn Centre’s ban

At 6 pm on Friday evening, police and revenue officials raided the home of Bashir Ahmad Lone — the former district president of Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir — at Syedpora Harwan, Srinagar, and asked his family members to leave the residence. The family said they were shown an order, following which they were asked to vacate the property. The officials soon blocked the entrances with wooden planks leaving the family to fend for themselves on a cold road outside their residence.

Article 35A protest in Kashmir. Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We were outside the residence till late evening, making frenetic calls for help,” said one anxious family member whose Srinagar property was sealed. “While officials promised help, none came to our rescue.” The family spent the night at the place of a relative. Similar news came from Srinagar’s Bemina area where the property of another JeI leader was sealed.

Since last week, leaders and activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) have been detained in a mass crackdown across the Valley. This comes in the aftermath of the 14 February Pulwama attack carried out by the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which left 42 Central Reserve Police Force personnel dead.

The eviction order came from the office of Srinagar magistrate Shahid Chaudhary. Copies of a slew of similar orders directing authorities to seal properties of the group surfaced on social media Friday, less than 24 hours after the Centre banned the outfit for five years under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

In a notification issued after a high-level meeting on security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the outfit “is in close touch with militant groups and is supporting extremism and militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere. JeI is supporting claims for secession of a part of the Indian territory from the Union and supporting terrorist and separatist groups fighting for this purpose by indulging in activities and articulations intended to disrupt the territorial integrity of India.”

Earlier, in a mass crackdown, over 200 JeI leaders and activists were detained, including their chief Dr Abdul Hameed Fayaz, spokesperson Zahid Ali and others. Some party activists said this is the third time the outfit has been banned. The cadre-based party founded in 1942 faced bans during the 70s and 90s. Many believe the outfit is being punished for its ideology, which regards Jammu and Kashmir as a “disputed territory,” and seeks its resolution through “right to self-determination.”

The JeI cadre was decimated in the counter offensive led by the civilian militia called Ikhwan, particularly after the terror group Hizbul Mujahideen called itself the armed wing of the JeI. In 1997, the organisation distanced itself from the militancy.

The Centre’s ban has drawn flak in the Valley. “Why has Jamaat been banned?” asked People’s Conference chief and BJP ally Sajad Gani Lone. “Jamaat is a social political and religious organisation. In a vibrant democracy, ideas have to be fought and not banned. This organisation has given us illustrious leaders and legislators. How can they be banned? I strongly pitch for the revocation of the ban.”

Terming democracy a battle of ideas, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti called the crackdown condemnable and and said it was “another example of high-handedness and muscular approach of the Government of India to deal with the political issue of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“Why is the Government of India so uncomfortable with Jamaat-e-Islami? Radicalised Hindu groups representing fringe elements 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?” Mehbooba Mufti asked in a tweet.

The ban triggered a wave of anxiety in the Valley. Even as their properties were seized, senior JeI leaders kept mum. “I don’t think it’s the right time to talk,” said a well-known JeI leader from Srinagar, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Whatever we say might be used against our leaders who are currently under detention.”

The Joint Resistance Leadership led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik also condemned the ban, terming it an ‘authoritarian and arbitrary’ decision of the Government of India. “Post the Pulwama attack, there has been a deliberate attempt to direct revenge against Kashmiris, including attacks on students outside the state, mass arrests and crackdown, raids on homes of leadership and people across the Valley, to banning organisations and fiddling with 35A/370,” JRL said in a statement.

They said all this is being undertaken by the “rulers” in New Delhi in a sweeping and muscular manner by continuing with their Kashmir doctrine of force, as to be seen as being tough on Kashmir and fulfilling their agenda in order to woo and consolidate voters for electoral gain.

“The Jamaat-e-Islami JK has evolved over the years and has been mainly focussing on the welfare activities in Kashmir,” said Kashif, an outfit member who’d only share his first name.  “While fringe Hindu groups have been given absolute freedom across India, New Delhi is banning an organisation that played a great role in Kashmir during disasters like 2014 floods.”

Sameer Peer, a Srinagar-based teacher, said the ban has put at risk the future of thousands of students enrolled in the JeI-run Falah-E-Aam schools. “Educational institutions should be left out of it,” Peer said. “They are recognised by the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education and participate in all government functions.”

Even as senior bureaucrat Khursheed Ganai — an advisor to Governor Satya Pal Malik — said the government will consider matters before it bans the JeI-run schools, the crackdown has fanned tensions in the Valley. Many believe the move is likely to backfire and will push the Valley into a new crisis.

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Updated Date: Mar 02, 2019 17:09:51 IST

Updated: March 2, 2019 — 10:12 pm