Imposing ban on Jamaat-e-Islami in Jammu and Kashmir is seen as yet another offensive by the central government against the people of Kashmir. The ban on Jamaat follows in the thick of threats of invalidation to Articles 35-A and 370, withdrawal of security to several leaders and a massive spree of arrests across the valley. People of Kashmir presently find themselves at the receiving end and a wave of anger is sweeping the valley. Even those who do not support or subscribe to the Jamaat ideology feel equally enraged by the move. It is against this backdrop that a general shutdown called by the business community has paralyzed normal life on Tuesday.
It is this peoples’ mood that made former chief minister Omar Abdullah and Mahbooba Mufti, BJP’s key ally Sajjad Gani Lone and many other pro India groups and leaders to express their reservations over banning the Jamaat. Mahbooba Mufti summed up the mood in the valley saying “currently, there is an atmosphere of revenge against Kashmiris. Youths are being arrested and particularly Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a social and political organisation, is being subjected to political revenge,” she claimed, as scores of PDP activists hit the roads in Srinagar shouting slogans of “Stop state terrorism”. It makes the case as Kashmir versus India. The central government put ban on the Jamat-e-Islami, last week, under anti-terror law on grounds that it was “in close touch” with militant outfits and was expected to “escalate secessionist movement” in the state. This gives the idea of central government’s very poor knowledge and understanding (unless it is a political decisions) of the ground situation in Kashmir. Jamaat is a politico-religious organization involved more in social activities than political one. Before the advent of militancy Jamaat participated in elections. In 1987 it was because of the Jamaat-formed Muslim United Front (MUF) that assembly elections witnessed massive participation of Kashmiri people. But the large scale rigging and manipulation of elections by NC-Congress alliance under the guarding eyes of New Delhi dealt a severe blow to the peoples’ confidence in democracy, and people of Kashmir looked for other ways to get heard.
Jamaat was banned for the same reasons in 1990 as well. Though the ban was for a period of two years but the Jamaat continued to remain dormant. It started its activities after Ghulam Mohammad Bhat took over as the Ameer (President) in 1997. Bhat announced dissociation of the Jamaat from any kind of militant and underground activities. He was the first leader of any significance who sought the issue of Kashmir resolved through peaceful means and dialogue. He expelled several members of the party from the Jamaat who had militant connection. For the past 10 years Jamaat is not associated with any of the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference. Instead Jamaat restricted itself to social and religious work only. Jamaat’s contribution to education is second to government only. It is running a chain of around 300 schools with over one lakh students. Only government approved syllabus and NCRT books are taught in these school. It is also a source of employment to hundreds of people. Its social work is also exceptional—helping poor, orphans and destitute. By banning the organization it would have a huge social impact on Kashmir. In their attempt to prove their loyalty to the king, local administration went miles ahead and started sealing the personal property of Jamaat people. In Srinagar residential houses of some Jamaat functionaries were sealed. They were restored to the owners only after media uproar. Jamaat was banned twice earlier. In 1975 when there was no militancy, Shiekh Abdullah, then chief minister got it banned merely for political ends. The latest ban also seems a political project of the BJP ahead of general elections.