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Massive crackdown on pro-Pak Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir can be of historic significance–Part 1

A meeting of Jamaat-e-Islami in progress (Pic: Courtesy outlookindia.com)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has launched its biggest operation in Jammu and Kashmir with searches at the premises of all prominent functionaries of the outlawed Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). The operation began with a coordinated chain of raids on the residences and establishments of the top-ranking JeI leaders, including four former Amirs of the organisation, in 14 districts of the Union Territory on Sunday, 8 August 2021.

Even as the raids were underway on the third consecutive day on Tuesday, it was officially confirmed that as many as 61 premises were extensively searched on the first two days. Officials said that over 150 private vehicles had been hired for the operation in addition to dozens of the Police, security, paramilitary and other government vehicles. Senior officers from New Delhi and Chandigarh are camping in J&K and leading and supervising the raids.

Of the five former heads, Ghulam Nabi Naushehri has been living in Pakistan since his migration in 1991. Residences of the four Amirs, namely Ghulam Hassan Sheikh of Tarigam Kulgam, Mohammad Abdullah Wani of Wadwan Budgam, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat of Tujjarsharif Sopore and Abdul Hamid Fayaz of Nadigam Shopian, were searched on Sunday.

The last Amir, until the JeI was banned for five years immediately after the 14 February 2019 terror attack in which 40 CRPF men were killed, Abdul Hamid Fayaz has been in jail for the last over two years, even as others of the organisation like Mohammad Abdullah Wani and spokesperson advocate Zahid Ali have been released.

Also Read: NIA nabs key conspirator in Parihar brothers killing case

Zahid, former deputy Amir Mohammad Ramzan Faheem, Bashir Ahmad Lone and the JeI veteran Dr Mohammad Sultan of Soibug Budgam, who has unsuccessfully contested Assembly elections and has been living in Pakistan over the last several years, were all on the NIA’s list whose houses were searched on Sunday.

The NIA has claimed seizure of electronic and other incriminating documentary evidences but sources close to the JeI maintained that the organisation had been “completely defunct” after February 2019 and nobody was associated with the fund-raising and other operations since long. “They haven’t found anything incriminating. Reportedly, they have seized the accounts of a grand mosque which is currently under construction in Kupwara”, said a well-placed source.

Officials maintained that the search operation and digital analysis of the seizures would take a substantial amount of time. “NIA does not launch a search operation until it is sure of getting concrete, substantive evidence. The officers who order raids are held responsible if a case fails during prosecution and trial. It reflects on their performance and conduct even after their transfer and retirement. They will take time but establish this organisation’s links to terrorism and terror funding”, said an officer.

Post-1990, JeI has been associated with the outlawed militant group Hizbul Mujahideen which drew most of the guerrilla cadres from this organisation. However, ever since 1942, when the JeI established base in Kashmir, it has existed as a Muslim religious organisation which began participating in the Indian democratic exercises when the valley’s towering politician Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was running his pro-Plebiscite Mahaz-e-Rai Shumari from jail.

JeI’s political face Syed Ali Shah Geelani contested 5 Assembly and 3 Lok Sabha elections. Of the eight, he won three from the Assembly segment of Sopore—in 1972, 1977 and 1987 when he was the candidate of Muslim United Front (MUF).

Also read: Why J&K turned its back on stone-pelters & militants seeking govt jobs

It was over 50 years back that the red-flag National Conference’s and Sheikh Abdullah’s arch ideological rival, JeI realised that its expansion would not be possible without being power by hook or by crook. It was difficult for the organisation which was sworn to the dream of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan and was a minnow before Sheikh’s party. In 1971-72, it discovered that it could be an electoral asset for the ruling Congress whose president and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi left no stone unturned to emaciate Sheikh’s NC/Plebiscite Front.

JeI under the leadership of Geelani and others contested the Lok Sabha elections of 1967 followed by the erstwhile State’s first Panchayat elections when Sheikh was in jail. In the history’s most rigged Assembly elections in 1972, JeI entered into a friendly contest with Congress which strategically conceded 5 seats to the politico-religious organisation. Geelani was one among the five declared as returned, from Sopore.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Sheikh’s second biggest enemy, who with others laid the foundation of the Congress party in J&K in 1964, was a Minister. The bonhomie between Geelani’s and Mufti’s parties goes back to that era. Shortly after Sheikh returned to power under the Indira-Abdullah Accord in 1975, Mufti convinced Mrs Gandhi to pull the rug. Congress withdrew support from Sheikh’s government but it led to dissolution of the Assembly and Governor’s rule.

Sheikh’s NC swept J&K’s first free, fair and transparent Assembly elections in 1977. Of the 42 seats in Kashmir, NC bagged 38 and a grand alliance under the central ruling Janata Party (JP) had to be content with just 2 seats—Abdul Gani Lone in Handwara and Abdul Rashid Kabli in Eidgah, Srinagar. JeI got only one seat for Geelani, in Sopore. In 1983, Congress got 26 seats, mostly from Jammu but JeI failed on all segments.

In April 1979, Sheikh’s mainstream Kashmir constituency held JeI Pakistan responsible for Z.A. Bhutto’s execution in Gen. Zia Ul Haq’s military regime. Unruly crowds with substantial participation of the NC cadre swooped on the JeI-dominated villages across South Kashmir. Their houses were torched and apple orchards destroyed on a large scale. During the Emergency, Sheikh was alleged to have motivated Mrs Gandhi to extend the ban on RSS and JeI Hind to the JeI J&K. It all sharpened JeI’s hostility towards the NC.

According to a profile in Caravan magazine, Mufti overtly campaigned for the NC-Congress alliance in 1987 but covertly asked his followers to vote for the MUF whose principal constituent was JeI. In the allegedly rigged Assembly elections, in which the MUF bagged only 4 seats and its veterans like Mohammad Yousuf Shah, who became Hizbul Mujahideen’s chief with nom de guerre of Syed Salahuddin in 1991, were declared as losers. Out of differences, Mufti resigned from Congress and he joined VP Singh’s Jan Morcha.