Is BJP using a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami to prove its toughness in Kashmir?

Many in Kashmir want to know why an organisation which runs schools and benefits the vulnerable is being closed down. Won't it adversely impact Kashmiri society? Does anyone outside care?

 |  4-minute read |   09-03-2019
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During the 2014 General Elections in the country, Kashmir, fortunately, was not an issue. It was the economy and the corruption of the UPA government that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its chief campaigner, Narendra Modi, rightly exploited to the hilt, reducing the Congress to 44 seats in Parliament.

Despite Afzal guru's hanging , Kashmir didn't become poll issue. 

We in Kashmir were hopeful that Modi had the right mix from the mandate — and the power to settle the Kashmir issue through dialogue and reconciliation. It became the sole reason for our alliance with the party, even though we have a different ideological viewpoint.

However, the Prime Minister and the BJP didn’t follow the agenda of the alliance. They gave up on reconciliation and dialogue, and instead wanted a hardline and iron-fist approach. They wanted a crackdown on the Hurriyat and Jamaat-e-Islami without, as we saw it, any material evidence against them, which was resisted by the-then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti — leading to the break-up of the alliance.

narendra-modi-mehboo_030819102319.jpgWe in Kashmir were very hopeful that the Prime Minister would solve the simmering issue through dialogue. (Source: Reuters)

Cut to 2019, ahead of the General Elections — the Prime Minister not only boasted about a successful 'pilot project', he even spoke about sealing off properties of terror supporters. While the 'pilot project' was an obvious reference to the Indian Air Force-led air strike across the LoC into Pakistani territory, the sealing-off of properties is an ongoing reality in the Kashmir Valley and Muslim-dominated areas of Jammu.

Has the Prime Minister given up on the economy, employment, governance and development, or perhaps has relatively less to show on these fronts, thereby shifting the focus to fighting Kashmir (read: fighting against Kashmiris, as many see it) and Pakistan?

While the withdrawal of security cover to the Hurriyat leadership and some PDP leaders is how this started in the Valley, some reports of violence against hapless Kashmiris — students, businessmen, travellers — across several states are also doing the rounds. What gives credence to the belief that this alleged violence isn't random is how the government reacts to it. While thousands of students were forced to return home, those in power dismissed such reports as rumours, and did relatively little. The Prime Minister didn’t condemn this until the Supreme Court of India itself pitched in. And a person as important as the Governor of a state advocated a ban on Kashmiri products, which eventually, the party disagreed with.

tweet_030819103024.jpgThough the party disagreed, resentment towards Kashmiris could not be denied. (Source: Twitter/Screengrab)

It is in this backdrop that I see the ban order on Jamaat-e-Islami as an act aiming to further the crackdown in the state, and project Narendra Modi outside it as a strong leader against Pakistan.

As I see it, the ban order is undemocratic and I strongly believe that it will not stand the scrutiny of the law whenever challenged.

The BJP presumed that its 'pilot project' across the LoC would bring a new lease of life to it as its record on the economic revival of the country and providing jobs has been pretty dismal. But when they went for air-strikes inside Pakistani territory, they apparently failed to take into account the fact that Pakistan has the capability to retaliate — and escalate. With this one decision, the BJP government internationalised the Kashmir issue and made it a nuclear flashpoint.

Never before has the world seen two nuclear states so openly confront each other the way India and Pakistan did in the past fortnight.

2016-08-29t120902z_1_030819102002.jpgWon't an escalation with Pakistan adversely affect the future of Kashmir? Won't it impact its innocent young? (Source: Reuters)

With Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan calling for dialogue, the BJP government's shifting of focus onto Kashmir, banning Jamaat-e-Islami and sealing properties, can be seen as a counter exercise to look tough. Let's also think about some numbers — such as over 300 Jamaat-run schools, where over 100,000 students are currently enrolled. What are they supposed to do now?

For over two decades now, the Jamaat-e-Islami has openly disassociated itself with armed insurgency in Kashmir and called for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. From 1998 onwards, there is reportedly not a single FIR against the Jamaat and the organisation was apparently working to spread education through its schools. The schools are registered with the government and the curriculum in these is as per The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

There was no adverse report against the organisation. Jamaat, which is a strong cadre-based organisation, and believes in solving the Kashmir issue through peaceful means, will now feel choked again. The ban could even push some towards a disastrous extreme, with harmful consequences for Kashmir's society itself.

I ask what many Kashmiris are asking today. Is all of this for the electoral adventurism of the BJP? We want to know. 

Also read: The Bullies of Partition: How the Muslim League silenced the majority of Indian Muslims strongly opposed to the creation of Pakistan



Suhail Bukhari Suhail Bukhari @suhail_bukhari

Author is spokesperson, Peoples Democratic Party and media adviser to Mehbooba Mufti.

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