In 1998, the then Jamat-e-Islami (JeI) chief in Jammu and Kashmir addressed a press conference to announce the party’s disassociation with militancy. The announcement sowed the seeds of discord between Jamat and its then political head Syed Ali Shah Geelani which culminated in a split of Jamat in 2004.
Although Geelani had parted ways with Jamat to form his own political outfit, Tehreek-e-Hurriya’ (TeH), Jamat allowed him to continue as a Jamat member by giving him dual membership. Jamat members who joined Geelani were also given dual membership and Jamat continued to be part of the Geelani-led separatist conglomerate, the Hurriyat Conference.
The rift within Jamat first surfaced in 1998 when Ghulam Mohammad Bhat as Jamat chief, distanced his party from militancy especially the Hizbul Mujahideen. Bhat’s open distancing from “armed resistance” pitted Geelani – who was then the political head of Jamat – against him. Geelani termed Bhat’s remarks as his personal view. Though the cold war between Jamat and Geelani continued for six years, Geelani with the support of some other top Jamat leaders including Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai split from the party to form his own Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in 2004.
When militancy erupted in the valley in early 90s, the then Hizbul Mujahideen chief Ahsan Dar announced that the militant outfit is the military wing of Jamat-e-Islami. The Jamat leaders remained silent and many of their members took up top posts in the militant organization especially its Shariah Council – an Islamic court. But as Jamat started to lose its men, especially to the counter insurgent group Ikhwan, Jamat made the attempts to disassociate from militancy to “save its cadres”, causing a rift within.
Over the years, the differences between Geelani and his parent organization Jamat-e-Islami have only increased. Jamat has stopped participating in the meetings called by Hurriyat but they have not formally withdrawn from the separatist conglomerate.
That Bhat has again been elected as the Jamat-e-Islami chief by a majority vote, however, can now formalize the Jamat’s exit from Hurriyat Conference.
The differences between Jamat and Hurriyat were further deepened when Jamat-e-Islami said that it will not participate in the assembly elections but will not issue a boycott call of these elections – a stand contrary to that of Geelani and his Hurriyat Conference.
With Bhat, considered as a bete noire of Geelani, at the helm of affairs in Jamat, there is little chance of a rapprochement and the process of a formal exit from Hurriyat can gather momentum.