May 2019 News
How Jamaat Is Driving Militancy While Shaping Politics In Kashmir22 May 2019
Times of India
Anantnag: More than two months after the Pulwama suicide attack, a young PhD student was among six militants arrested for the March 31 abortive terror strike on a CRPF convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. Hilal Mantoo was a member of Jamiat-ul-Tulba (JuT), student wing of pro-Pakistan religious organization Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) which was banned after the Pulwama attack. Mantoo's political affiliation surprised few in Kashmir. 'It is a given that every native militant would have either a direct or an indirect link with Jamaat. Terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen, after all, is the armed wing of Jamaat even though it has never officially admitted this. Slain Hizb commander Burhan Wani was also raised in a Jamaat household,' a senior Kashmiri police officer told TOI. Officially, JeI has only 5,600 members, 2,500 of them coming from the northern district of Baramulla. It is regarded mostly a south Kashmir network, but its influence in the valley, with a population of around seven million Kashmiri Muslims, is wide and deep. 'Jamaat believes in the rule of Sharia and Kashmir's right to be part of Pakistan. It has shaped the separatist narrative and radicalized youth to the extent that they are readily available cadres for militant organizations today,' a CPM activist in Anantnag told TOI. Kashmir's JeI was established by Sa'aduddin and Maulana Ahrar a year after Maulana Maududi founded Jamaat-e-Islami in Lahore in 1941. Historically, Kashmir's JeI has been aligned with Pakistan's JeI. According to Pakistani journalist Arif Jamal, the bond between the two Jamaat groups strengthened in 1983 after secret meetings in Kashmir, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In his book, Shadow War, Jamal mentions that at the behest of Pakistan's military dictator Zia ul Haq, JeI amir (chief) of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) Maulana Abdul Bari reached out to JeI Kashmir's founding amir Sa'aduddin for his support to wage a proxy war against India. The outcome of this strategic partnership led to the formation of Muslim United Front (MUF), an umbrella group of Kashmiri Islamists including Jamaat who fought the 1987 assembly elections on the plank of secession from India. Only five independents backed by MUF won out of the total 44 contested seats in that election but the vote share of Jamaat rose to 31.9% in 1987 from a mere 6.6% in the previous polls. This coincided with NC's vote share declining to 49% from 59%. However, MUF alleged rigging and the controversial election became the raison d'Ãªtre for Kashmiri Islamists and separatists to take up arms against India in 1988-89. 'Jamaat grew steadily despite repression perpetrated against it by Sheikh Abdullah and his NC. But it became powerful because Hizbul decimated the pro-independence militant group JKLF,' a JKLF activist in downtown Srinagar said. Jamaat 'rukun' (members elected after a rigorous process) work quietly and through a broad network of its 350 mosques, 400 schools and 1,000 seminaries across the strife-torn state. 'Hundreds of Jamaat members and supporters are employed by almost every government institution,' a civil servant in JK secretariat said. Local politicians say Jamaat became more powerful after PDP led by the Muftis came into existence. 'PDP pandered to Jamaat and Hizbul to fight elections. From symbolism like Mehbooba wearing green scarves and abaya to the 'healing touch policy' for militants, PDP did everything to get Jamaat's vote share,' an NC politician in Srinagar said. Some PDP members privately admit that the politics of reaching out to Jamaat turned out to be a pyrrhic victory. 'In the last 20 years, PDP tried to mainstream Jamaat but the reverse happened. JeI infiltrated into the entire state machinery and made it impossible for PDP to function as a mainstream party when it ruled JK in alliance with BJP. Often requests came from JeI to drop cases against militants, their ground workers and stone pelters,' a PDP leader in Anantnag said. 'After the PDP-led government fell, the Modi government intensified the crackdown against Hurriyat and Jamaat,' a former PDP worker from Tral said. Out of JeI's 600 office bearers, around 500 were 'bound down' and then released. The remaining 100 were arrested under UAPA law and PSA, a senior police officer said. Though most have been released on bail, some remain in police or judicial custody. 'Yet, they remain operational on the ground,' he said. However, most people in Kashmir's security establishment believe that the crackdown will decrease Jamaat's sphere of influence and erode Hizbul's strength. 'There have hardly been any protests against the arrests of Jamaat members,' a Kashmiri IPS officer said.