Dissent and Democracy : Banning The Jama’at-e-Islamia

Jamaat e Islamia

For four million people living in   an area of 85,805.8 square milesin the bosom of mighty Himalayas,Saturday ‘12 March 1932’ was a momentous day.On this day after years of struggle and sacrifices,   ‘Maharaja Hari Singh, the autocratic ruler of Kashmir  on the recommendations of the Glancy Commission Report announced the grant of the rights to freedom of press and platform to the people of the State.’ Maharaja Hari Singh ancestor had purchased the country and its people as merchandise in 1846 from British for peanuts- thus earned the title of ruling it as his fiefdom.

To see the fundamental democratic right of freedom of expression denied to the people of the state restored, it had taken the blood of hundreds of martyrs to convince the Earl of Willingdon, British Viceroy and Governor General (1931-1936) to appoint a commission under BJ Glancy, an officer of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the British Indian Government, to look into the grievances of the people of the State. The restoration of this right in the state was the beginning ofpeoples trystwith democracy. On 15, October, of the year this right was restored, the first political organization All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference was set up for conducting the movement for establishing democratic institutions as envisaged in the memorandum presented to Lord Reading by Kashmir leaders in October 1924.

The whole objective behind recapitulating these historical developments is to suggest that people of Jammu and Kashmir had earned the freedom to association, assembly, carrying out social, religious and political activities and right to dissent during the feudal-autocratic rule much before these were bestowed upon people in other states in the sub-continent. Subsequently, these rights were also protected and guaranteed to the people in the Constitution.Nonetheless, after 1947, the political parties in power in the state, despite vowing for strengthening the democratic institutions in the state and protecting people’s right to freedom of expression, for achieving myopic political ends have been undoing the goals achieved after huge sacrifices. On Thursday,   Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir were banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for five years, officials said.  The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after a high-level meeting on security, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a notification in this regard. The order said the politico-religious organization was indulging in activities prejudicial to internal security and public.

The party has been banned for the third time during past forty-eight years since it for the first time participated in the electoral politics and contested elections for the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly.  Before looking into its role as a religious and political organization, it would be of interest to look at the genesis of the organization and itsobjectives.

In undivided India, on 26 August 1941, Maulana Abul Ala Maududi founded Jama’at-e-Islami. On his invitation seventy-five persons assembled in Lahore.  There were among them the Ulema, University graduates, artisans and professional men. The objective of the organizationwas the establishment of Deen (religion) which meant a revival of Islamic ideas and values in the life of the people. Known for his lucid diction, in Urdu, his literature on Islam was   read by Muslims all over India. In Srinagar, it was available at an iconic book shop Ghulam Mohammad Noor Mohammad Book Sellers, Maharaja Gunj- then the commercial hub of the state.  Few young men including a science graduate working in Islamia High School, Saad-u-Din was attracted towards the literature. In 1945, he along with another young manQari Saif-u-Din reached Pathankot to participate in an All India Conference of the Jama’at-e-Islami held on 18 April 1945. In this conference, they met Maulana Ghulam Ahmad Ahrar of Shopian. On their return to Srinagar, the trio founded    Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir. Immediately after the foundation a delegation of the newly established organization called upon Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Yusuf Shah, then most important religious leader. “The delegation included Hakim Ghulam Nabi, Maulana Ahrar, Maulana Mohammad Amin Shopiani, Maulana Ahsan Sahib and Qari Saif-U-Din”. He encouraged them to go ahead with the mission of spreading the message of Allah. Moreover, he told them that they could also use the premises of the Jamia Masjid, Srinagar for their religious activities.  Steadily, a good number of educated Muslims were attracted towards the religious programmes of the newly founded party.

In its constitution, enforced in November 1953, under article 4, the organization explain its objective:

“The objective of the Jama’at-e-Islamia J&K is Iqaamat-e-Din, i.e. establishment of God’s religion, which is inspired by sole desire to earn Divine pleasure and secure success in the Hereafter.”

And under Article 5, clause 3, it explains that the organization wants to achieve this objective through democratic and constitutional methods while working for the reforms and righteous revolution. Looking at the organization through the prism of its constitution it is a religious organization ‘guided by Quran and Sunnah’ that does not believe in employing the ways and means against ethics, truthfulness or which may  contribute to strife on earth.’

The Jama’at constitution does not explicitly say that the party can take part in the elections for the Parliament or the State Assembly. It also makes no mentionoftheKashmir Dispute and working for the cause of self-determination for the people of the state.  Nonetheless, it has been part of the electoral process in the state,andequally, its leadership and cadres from the mid-fifties agitated for the right to self-determination and suffered long incarcerations.It shot into prominence as a socio-religious and political organization, after 1964 Holy Relic, after it as a constituent of the All Parties Action Committee endorsed the resolution for passed in mass public gathering for the right to self-determination on 23 March 1964. In 1968, State Peoples Convention, convened by Sheikh Abdullah, it had avowedly come in support for right to self-determination for the state, that besides being part of the “Instrument of Accession” signed by Maharaja Hari Singh and first Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten had also been recognized by United Nations in its 1948 and 1949 resolutions and agreed by India and Pakistan.

In the thick of election boycott culture that after 1951 elections for the Constituent Assembly was gospel for the resistance politics in the state, in 197i, it decided to go against the tide and participate in the polls. In 1970, the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front had announced that it was going to contest the coming elections.  On 12 January 1971, the GOI declared the Plebiscite Front as anunlawfulbody, arrested its 350 activists and locked its office. Syed Mir Qasim in his memoirs mentions that he had suggested to Prime Minister Indra Gandhi to declare the Jama’at also as an unlawful body and prevent it from participating in the elections. Mrs Gandhi had not agreed to ban and preventing it from participating in the polls. She had her reason for it then she will have to ban the RSS also in India. The Jamat leaders took the oath of loyalty to the Indian and Kashmir Constitution of India,andit won some seats. (My life and Times p 132-133). The participation of the Jama’at was a trendsetter in as much asa couple of few more organization like the Political Conference, which candidly advocated accession of state with Pakistan also contested the 1977 elections.

In 1975, the party fielded candidates against Sheikh Abdullah and Afzal Beg after the Indra-Abdullah Agreement, which had drawn curtains on the plebiscite movement in the state and let to the burial of the Plebiscite Front. Same year after the elections Sheikh Abdullah banned theJama’at, sent all legislators of the partyto jailand closed schools run by the organization- interestingly the GOI had not extended the Emergency to the state. The organization also contested 1977 and 1983 State Assembly elections- it did not have good success.And it also contested 1987 election as a constituent of the MUF. Like few other political parties that participated in the electoral process, after the notoriously rigged elections of 1987 elections, the Jama’at also remained away from the electoral politics. Nonetheless, for it being a cadre-based and grassroots organizations its influence has not diminished from the hustings.

In 1990 the V.P. Singh government again banned the organization. In 1993 P.V. Narasimha Rao government revoked the order. In 1993, after the birth of the multi-party combine the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, it was also one of its 23 constituents. Nonetheless, despite being constituent of the Hurriyat Conference, it continued it socio-religious activities- educations and orphanages remained its main concerns.

The strength of democracy lies in giving space to voices of dissent and not in denying it. Had Mrs Gandhi agreed to the suggestion of Syed Qasim, perhaps the Jama’at would not have participated in the future elections till 1987.

Columnist and Writer


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