Jamaat ban – A step in the right direction

Rajan Gandhi
Recent ban on Jamaat-e-Islami has once again brought to focus various issues like Wahhabism of Islam in Kashmir, radicalization and separatism in young minds right from school days. Jamat was formed in 1945 with a purpose of mobilizing public against Dogra rulers along with Ahl-i-Hadith. In addition to mobilization of public Jamaat had aim of removing Sufism from Kashmir as the thought process was that Sufism had deviated people from core of Islam. Till independence various organizations, political as well as religious were in competition with each other to get foothold in Kashmir. Going by the issues raised at that time like dominance of Pandits in Civil services due to their inclination towards studies, dominance of Dogras in army due to their inclination towards war skills but reality was that only few Muslims were educated at that time and Sheikh Abdullah was one of them who exploited illiteracy of masses to its core. Jamaat and Sheikh Abdullah didn’t see eye to eye as Jamaat throughout felt that though Sheikh Abdullah was well versed with Quranic verseus which he used magnificently in his political speeches but rarely followed in his personnel life. So at the initial stage Jamaat had many opponents NC, Ahl-i-Hadith, followers of Sufism and as such had little success except in few pockets of Kashmir. Once independence saga was over Jamaat-e-Islami Hind separated Jammat-e-Islami of Kashmir in 1953 as Jamaat’s ideology was merger of Kashmir with Pakistan right from its inception which it still has. Once it separated from Indian scenario Jammat found disgruntled youth as easy target for their ideology who were against merger with India and formation of Plebiscite Front after detention of Sheikh Abdullah and failure of subsequent local Governments with allegation of rampant corruption, nepotism, and aspiration of Kashmiris for independence created an ideal ground for Jamaat to grow exponentially and with this journey of radicalization started without any check and balances.
In December 1963 turbulence, the issue of holy relic took the backstage and the movement demanding freedom with the demand of self-determination became centre stage and Jamaat was an active partner in that agitation. Jamaat had clear vision that education is an important tool to influence young minds as such under the grab of education cum religious teachings started concentrating on the education sector and was rewarded substantially. By late sixties it participated in local panchayat elections of 1969 indirectly. Riding on this success Jamaat took a plunge in general elections of 1971 but without any success though it didn’t deter their resolve as by that time their thought process had taken a different route. The Central Advisory Committee decided that Jamaat-e-Islami would contest the 1972 elections of the State Assembly as it aimed through participation in the elections that they would challenge the notion that politics and religion are separate. Despite its expectation that it would do well it failed to get as many seats as it had hoped as it could win only five seats out of 22 it contested. But their successful candidates took an active role in the State Assembly by opposing genuine laws which were un-Islamic as per them, arguing in favour of Islamic alternatives and raising the question of Jammu and Kashmir’s disputed status, all these against the secular fabric of India. In 1975 Jamaat strongly opposed Indira-Abdullah accord as any settlement of Kashmir issue for them was merger with Pakistan. With the imposition of emergency Jamaat was banned along with its all schools and madrasas. Subsequently Jamaat won only one seat in the 1977 election.
Although the 1970s proved to be a phase where the Jamaat’s political strength grew exponentially but organisation suffered massive reverses in April 1979 as General Zia ul Haq seized power in Pakistan and hanged Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Common perception was that the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan was behind this event. Consequently, there were massive anti-Jamaat agitations all over Kashmir. Jamaat offices and its members’ houses came under attack and these riots lasted for three days and property worth millions of rupees belonging to the Jamaat and its members were either destroyed or looted so much so that even orchards of its members were destroyed as such it also depicted the fluctuating minds of Kashmiri masses right from pre partition days, simply never trust anyone. The Jamaat later contested the 1983 State Assembly election but failed to win a single seat out of the 26 seats it had contested.
Frequency of anti-Indian protests increased in Kashmir in the 1980s. The Soviet-Afghan jihad and the Islamic Revolution in Iran were becoming source of inspiration for large numbers of Kashmiri Muslim youth. This Pan Islamic tilt was ideal breeding ground for both the pro-Independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the pro-Pakistan Islamist groups including Jamaat as they cashed this to full advantage. In 1980 the Supreme Court sentenced JKLF leader Maqbool Butt to death and large protests took place in Kashmir against this decision. While Butt became a hero for the Kashmiri masses but Jamaat urged restraint and did not call him a ‘shaheed’ (martyr). In 1986 some members of the JKLF crossed over to Pakistan to receive arms training but the Jamaat which saw Kashmiri Nationalism as contradicting Islamic universalism and its own desire for merging with Pakistan as such did not support the JKLF movement. The last time the Jamaat contested the elections was in 1987 as part of the Muslim United Front which was fought on the platform of advocating the establishment of rule by the Quran and Sunnah. After these elections Jamaat realized that if it did not join the armed struggle it could lose its popularity to the JKLF. The Jamaat was banned in 1990 but pre-emptying this Jamaat had formed the Falah-e-Aam Trust in 1988 to run JeI schools following a ban on it. Students from these schools were often recruited for arms training in Pakistan and “infiltrated back to carry on their subversive activity” and in 1989 Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) was adopted as the group’s “militant wing” allegedly under the influence of Pakistan’s ISI. In 1990 chief commander of HM, Syed Sallahudin who fought 1987 elections pronounced that HM was the “sword arm of the Jamaat”. By the mid 1990s Pakistani support to the JKLF ceased and was increasingly tilted towards pro-Pakistan Islamist groups including the Jamaat which totally sidelined the Kashmiri nationalist groups. The Hizbul Mujahideen assumed ascendancy among other major groups and mercilessly slaughtered the innocents until the emergence of counter insurgency groups in the valley in the latter half of 1994.
The Jamaat-e-Islami was an influential founder member of the undivided Hurriyat Conference from its inception in 1993 till 2003, when the amalgam suffered a vertical split led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani over alleged proxy participation in 2002 Assembly polls by some leaders of the People’s Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone. Jamaat withdrew from the Hurriyat and decided to focus on its so called social work while maintaining its separatist stand on Kashmir issue. Cadre-based Jamaat has a powerful Majlis-e-Shoora, an advisory council, which takes decisions on important issues. The second tier of the organisation consists of Rukn-e-Jamaat, pillar of Jamaat, who in turn elect the Majlis-e-Shoora. The number of Rukn-e-Jamaat can vary from 100 to 300 but for getting into this elite group, one has to fulfill certain criteria which can take a decade at least.
The founding fathers of the Jamaat publicly postured to redirect religion to achieve positive socio-structural changes in the society, impart modern scientific education to Kashmir’s nascent middle class and eradicate folk Islam. The Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, the student wing of the Jamaat, as per them organises seminars to make the youth aware of the various dangerous trends visible in the society. But truth is that Jamaat-e-Islami failed in all these sweetly projected work but achieved its disguised agenda of sowing seeds of secessionism in young minds; make them take up armed struggle against their own country. Jamaat has failed as a socio- religious organization completely as drug addiction, dowry problems, smuggling, burning of other religious places, killing of innocents, waging armed struggle against own country are some of the evils of Kashmiri society which Jamaat failed to address if it was honest in Islamic teachings and preaching but instead it has proved itself to be a puppet of Pakistan with a sole mission to fulfill enemy country’s nefarious agenda. More intriguing is the reality that they have clandestine links with local political parties to which they provide support during elections and in lieu get their agenda pursued and interests taken care of. With Modi government deciding to call it a day, they rightly decided not only to take on external factors emanating from Pakistan but also internal enemies by banning Jamaat-e-Islami but Government has spared schools, mosques and orphanage from ban. Any half hearted approach will not yield the desired results as in the past. There is no place for theocratic Islamic state in secular India against the ethos of even Kashmiriat. Jamaat has tried to create one and as such don’t have the right to exist in modern society. More details will emanate and will this be the end game of anti India forces in Kashmir only time will tell but the ball has been set rolling by BJP.
(The views of the author are personal)