Conflict

Crackdown on Jama’at-e-Islami: It began on the night of sabre-rattling

Jama’at-e-Islami, Jammu and Kashmir has been facing a mass crackdown on its rank and file since last week. Lately as New Delhi imposed a five-year ban on the socio-religious body, the outfit and affiliated institutions came under raids despite a word of caution from the unionist camp.  

It was exactly a week earlier, on February 23—when Indian jets undertook sorties over Kashmir’s skyline—that rumours of a nocturnal crackdown in the valley spread. Along with JKLF chief Yasin Malik, dozens of Jama’at-e-Islami leaders and activists were detained in those sweeping raids.

In the backdrop of already growing tensions between the two nuclear powers – India and Pakistan – the roaring skies and mass detentions only instilled fear-psychosis among the masses.

While the real deal was only figured out when Kashmir woke up the next day, but, the suspense was out – on the very same night – when the son of a Jama’at-e-Islami member from south’s Tral district announced his father’s detention on Facebook at 3:00 am.

He wrote“…my 64-year-old father M Amin Wani has been picked up by the SOG and Army in a nocturnal visit to our house. Around 12:30 am, they entered our lawn by climbing the walls and knocked at the widows of the house. In this chilling cold night…We pleaded that he will come to the Army camp in morning himself. (However), the person in command argued ‘meri bhi naukri hai’…”

Besides Amin Wani, the crackdown was on more than two dozen outfit members, including chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz and spokesperson, advocate Zahid Ali. This has been one of the major sweeping crackdowns on JeI since its formation in 1942.

The Jama’at was now bracing up for one of its toughest week ahead. Speculations grew, and the crackdown, which the outfit termed “fishy”, only toughened with each passing day.

Finally, the growing rumours were put to rest on February 28, five days past the nocturnal-raid, when the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a circular which noted a five-year-ban, accusing the socio-religious outfit of “supporting extremism and militancy in J-K and elsewhere”.

Blaming the organisation of disrupting “the territorial integrity of India”, the notification read: “JeI is supporting claims for secession of a part of the Indian territory from the Union and supporting terrorist and separatist groups fighting for this purpose…”

It’s the third ban on JeI, the cadre-based party, which was part of electoral process in Kashmir before 1990s. The outfit advocates right to self determination for the resolution of Kashmir dispute.

A file photo of Jamaat leaders.

A day after the latest ban on Jama’at, the administration raided its assets and public properties, including several affiliated schools in Ajas, Bandipora, Manigam, Ganderbal and Baramulla – according to reports. With that, as per news agency KNS, “future of 300 such schools, 10,000 teachers and one lakh student is said to be at stake”.

Now with reportedly over 300 detentions, the 6000-member-organisation says plenty have gone into hiding in order to evade arrest.

Last evening, the administration also raided the house of an ex-Jama’at member, Bashir Ahmad Lone – former Srinagar district president from Harwan area. The incident took place at around 6:00 in the evening on Friday, and the five-member family – two of them infants aged three and seven – were asked to vacate the house.

Talking to Free Press Kashmir, Bashir’s youngest son, Akhter Lone, alleged that the raid was carried out without any “written order or permission”.

Narrating the sequence of the event, he said: “Tehsildar and his associate, along with SHO Harwan, officials of the revenue department and armed policemen – in a group of 50 – barged into our house and informed that they have been ordered to seal the entire residence. When I asked for the written proof, the Tehsildar said he has been verbally directed by the higher-ups to do so.”

Although he argued with the Tehsildar that the government-circular available with him, nowhere says that personal property of the Jama’at members could be sealed, Akhter said, “we were still thrown out”.

Akhter, his wife and two kids, alongside a 16-year-old adopted sister, however couldn’t argue. And in a matter of 20 minutes, all the doors and windows were “nailed up” and the entire family was now on road, on a rainy winter night.

Sealed home of Bashir Ahmed Lone. (Photo Courtesy: Akhter Lone)

Notably, Akhter says, Bashir was booked under PSA and was in jail for three months. According to him, in November last year, his father was proved innocent in the High Court and was set free, and since then, Bashir along with his eldest son Younis has been in Amritsar undergoing medical treatment. The same month, the son says, Bashir had also “ended all the ties with the Jama’at”.

Out and alone in the dark, Akhter then took the family to his uncle’s house, for spending the night. Meanwhile, from Amritsar, Younis tried getting in touch with Srinagar Magistrate, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary.

“I particularly questioned the nature of the raid, to which, the DC Srinagar was left puzzled. He told me he needs to again go through the order copy, and asked us to cooperate for a night, assuring the residence to be unsealed the first thing next morning,” Younis said.

“Moreover,” he continued, “at around 12:30 in the night, a senior official part of the raid called my uncle, at whose house the family had taken shelter for the night.”

Recalling the conversation, Younis said he has the official saying on-record: “Meherbani karke aap khud hi seal hataa do kisi tarah se, warna hamaari naukri chali jaayegi. Aap ham se wajah pooch rahe ho, ab hame kya pataa? Hamm to sarkaari mulaazim hai, jo hame bola gayaa hammne wahi kiyaa” (For godsake, go and unseal your residence yourself! If we do it, we’ll lose our job. We don’t know, why it’s happening. We’re just government servants, following orders.)

However, the family denied doing so, and the next morning, the house was unsealed and handed over to them, as promised by DC Shahid Choudhary.

Later in the day, Akhter said, he visited the DC office, where he was told to “submit an affidavit that the house will not be used for any unlawful activity, ever”.

When Free Press Kashmir contacted different government officials over the matter, none of them was willing to speak on-the-record.

Off-the-record, however, a senior government official, privy to the raid, said that the step was taken as “Bashir Lone’s house has earlier been used for Jama’at activities” when he was an active member.

“Now, a written letter has been sent by the DC office to the Home Ministry assuring that no illegal Jama’at-activity takes place in the concerned residence,” the official said. “And with that, the family won’t be troubled by the administration anymore.”

Back home, however, Akhter, in a restless tone, added: “Let’s hope we won’t be displaced from our own house, again.”

 

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