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What is the Jamaat-e-Islami and Why is the State Cracking Down On It: News18 Explains

By: Aakash Hassan


Last Updated: February 25, 2019, 15:09 IST

What is the Jamaat-e-Islami and Why is the State Cracking Down On It: News18 Explains

Jamaat-e-Islami was the first of its kind organisation to develop "an ideology based on the modern revolutionary conception of Islam.”

Almost a week after a 19-year-old Kashmiri boy, Aadil Dar, blew himself up in a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, killing 40 paramilitary forces personnel, the state came down hard on separatists and members of Jama’at-e-Islami in Kashmir.

Over the past two days over 150 people have been arrested by police in nocturnal raids. Most of those arrested are from Jama’at, some of them are its senior-most leaders. The Police is calling these arrests as “preparations” for the upcoming polls.

Senior police officers say that Jama’at has actively been fuelling militancy. Jama’at, which interestingly has fought Parliamentary and assembly polls, however, officially maintains distance from armed insurgency.

To understand this big development in the rapidly changing scenario in Kashmir, News18 tries to explain to you the origins of this organisation and the implications of these arrests.

What is Jamaat e Islami and how did it take roots in Kashmir?

An Islamic-political organisation and social conservative movement, Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) was founded during British India in 1941 by Abul Ala Maududi, an Islamic theologian and socio-political philosopher. Along with the Muslim Brotherhood, (Ikhwan al-Muslimin, founded in 1928 Egypt), JeI was a first of its kind organisation to develop "an ideology based on the modern revolutionary conception of Islam.”

Maududi was of the belief that Islam is essential for politics. In his understanding, secularism, nationalism and socialism, were influences of western imperialism. He believed that it was necessary to institute sharia (Islamic Law) and preserve Islamic culture.

Following the partition of India in 1947, JeI split into separate independent organisations in India and Pakistan—Jama’at-e-Islami Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind—respectively.

From 1947 to 1952 a lot of educated youth and low and middle-ranking government servants were attracted to the Jama’at, Kashmir leadership of which favoured valley’s merger with Pakistan.

However, in 1952, due to the Kashmir dispute, a Kashmir branch was separated from Jama'at-i-Islami Hind. Maulana Ahrar and Ghulam Rasul Abdullah, two prominent Jama’at members from Kashmir, drafted its constitution.

By November 1953 the draft was accepted and a year later, in October 1954, Sa'aduddin Tarbali, a resident of Srinagar was elected as the Amir - the president. Tarbali, who held the position of Amir till 1985, while preaching Jama’at ideology started creating its base first in south Kashmir’s Shopian and followed by the adjoining areas.

Like RSS, Jama’at is a cadre-based organisation and has deep roots in Kashmir.

So has the Jamaat ever been politically inclined?

During the time of Tarbali, Jama’at was successful in building a number of schools, charitable trusts and an expansion of its activities, emerging as a major political player.

The Jama’at participated in the 1971 general elections believing that through the elections they can propagate their ideology and through legislation, their demand can be pushed forward.

But it didn’t win any seat. Charges of widespread rigging were made by Jama’at.

In 1972, the Jama’at participated in assembly elections with an aim “to challenge the notion that politics and religion are separate” and managed to secure 5 seats out of 22 seats it had contested. Again, Jama’at complained of mass rigging and alleged some of its members were harassed following the elections.

After the 1975 Indira–Sheikh accord when Sheikh Abdullah became Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and dropped his demand that the people of Kashmir be given the right to self-determination, Jama’at became more popular with its anti-sheikh stand.

“There was no major organisation talking right to self-determination except Jama’at after this and Sheikh tried to control them,” says Iymon Majid, a Kashmiri research scholar.

During emergency of 1975, Kashmir was unaffected due to its own constitution till Sheikh imposed it in the state and like in other parts of India, Jama’at-e-Islami was banned.

Jama’at strongly opposed the Indira-Abdullah Accord and considered it a gross violation of UN Resolutions on the Kashmir issue, Indian writer Yoginder Sikand writes in his book, “The Emergence and Development of the Jama‘at-i-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir (1940s–1990).”

A lot of people of the organisation were jailed, even five of its MLA’s were detained, but the Amir was at large.

In the 1977 general elections, Jama’at managed to win only one seat.

In April 1979 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was overthrown and imprisoned in a military coup by his army general Zia-ul-Haq, was hanged at Central Jail Rawalpindi, there was anger against Jama’at in Kashmir. People were of the belief that dictator Zia-Ul-Haq had close ties with Jama’at-e-Islami.

There were riots in Kashmir for three days and property worth rupees 400 million belonging people affiliated with Jama’at was damaged. Over one thousand houses were burned down, for which Jama’at blames Sheikh and his party.

In 1983 State Assembly election Jama’at didn’t win any seat and again alleged mass rigging.

In 1987, the Muslim United Front (MUF) came into the existence after Jama’at-e-Islami and few other religious organisations came together to fight state assembly elections. Jama’at was the key party in this front and most of the contestants belonged to it.

A record 80% people voted, MUF received 31.9% of votes share but won only four seats out of 43 seats it had contested. There were allegations of mass rigging. Since then Jama’at has not contested elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

What are Jamaat’s connections with militancy?

Maqbool Bhat, founder of the militant outfit, National Liberation Front was hanged in 1980 in Tihar jail. When he was sentenced to death, Jama’at was of the belief that talks can solve the issue of Kashmir. Sikand writes at that time “the Jama’at disapproved of Maqbool’s resort to arms and did not call him a ‘shahid’ (martyr) although it did express reserved admiration for him.”

“Jama’at was reluctant towards militancy. They were last to say that they will participate in the insurgency,” says Iyman Majid. “It was probably because of the old guard. They wanted not to be part of the insurgency, knowing the possible consequences.”

But after the allegation of mass rigging in 1987 elections when MUF activists started protesting they were arrested. Among the arrested was Mohammad Yousuf Shah. Shah was Jama’at’s Srinagar head and had contested from Amira Kadal constituency of Srinagar. He later became supreme commander of militant group Hizbul Mujahideen and is known by his alias Syed Salahuddin.

By the early 1990s, hundreds of youth went to Pakistan for arms training and came back to become militants. Jama’at had also by this time started supporting the insurgency.

In 1990, the founder and chief commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Ahsan Dar, pronounced the militant outfit as the "sword arm of the Jama’at".

Jama’at had started receiving support from Pakistan. Yoginder Sikand writes that participation in the armed struggle proved costly for the Jama’at.

Hundreds of people associated with Jama’at were killed in the anti-militancy forces.

Later in 1997, Jama’at said that they have no affiliation with Hizbul Mujahideen. Jama’at has been maintaining since then that they didn’t participate in the insurgency.

What will the arrests achieve?

While Jama’at maintains a clear distance from armed insurgency, security agencies believe that “the structure of Jama’at is used in Kashmir for pro-Pakistan and militant activities” in Kashmir.

Former Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police K Rajendra believes: “They have the anti-national feeling and are the root cause of the problem in Kashmir.”
He adds, “Government has done right by arresting them. It should have been done earlier,” he believes, saying that when he was DGP there was always the concern of Jama’at.

“Action was taken against them but the government was not serious and the efforts were half-hearted,” Rajendra told News18.

Serving police officers told News18 that there is a widespread belief in the security establishment that most of the militants are influenced by the Jama’at ideology and their leaders at different levels are responsible for “rabble-rousing”.

A high ranking police officer who did not wish to be named, told News18, “This is a crackdown on the leaders of militants. These people [Jamaat leaders] go to militants’ funerals and address people. Jamaat people actually make plans on the ground and inculcate militant sentiments in people.”

But Kashmiri academician Dr Sheikh Showkat feels that large-scale arrests of Jamaat people will be futile.

“It has faced such crackdown in past but despite that it has managed to survive. Actually every time it is put on the rack, it emerges with greater influence,” he said.

“They have picked up the leadership but Jama’at has a huge infrastructure. It is very strong and is accustomed to working in such conditions. It is a cadre-based organisation and doesn’t remain leaderless. There is a hierarchy, automatically gap is filled.”

Dr Showkat believes that crackdown on Jama’at has “made the situation worse. Possibly, the measure could be counter-productive. Kashmiris at large might develop strong sympathy for Jamaat and mistrust for the political leadership may increase.”
first published:February 25, 2019, 13:25 IST
last updated:February 25, 2019, 15:09 IST