Leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, including its chief Dr Hameed Fayaz, were picked up in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley overnight. Senior separatist leader Yasin Malik, chairman of the JKLF, too, was picked up from his home in Srinagar.
Additional security forces started arriving in Jammu and Kashmir Saturday after the Union Home Ministry approved the deployment of another 100 companies of paramilitary personnel in the state. Top officers, however, described the movement of the forces as a “routine exercise” ahead of the elections.
While no official statement was forthcoming on the detentions, police sources said over 200 Jamaat leaders and workers have been picked up from their homes, mostly in the South Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian. Raids were carried out in Central and North Kashmir as well.
In a statement, the Jamaat said: “During the intervening night of 22-23 February, police and other forces’ agencies launched mass arrest drive and raided many houses in the Valley wherein dozens of central and district level leaders have been arrested.”
Besides Fayaz, the Jamaat’s chief spokesperson, Advocate Zahid Ali, its former secretary general, Ghulam Qadir Lone, its district presidents of Anantnag and Baramulla, and other district and tehsil leaders were picked up.
Jamat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir is a socio-religious political party founded in 1942. The organisation, which has a strong cadre base across the state, is different from the Jamat-e-Islami Hind, and is more inclined towards Jamat-e-Islami Pakistan.
The Jamaat maintains that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory, and seeks the right of self-determination for Kashmiris. After militancy began in 1990, the largest indigenous militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, described itself as the military wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The Jamaat was banned and, in the mid-90s, hundreds of its activists were killed by the counter-insurgent force Ikhwan.
Over time, the Jamaat has distanced itself from militancy. It remains pro-separatist, but has moved out of the Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. A fresh ban on the organisation could be on the way, sources said.
The detention of its leaders was a “well designed conspiracy to pave way for further uncertainty in the region”, the Jamaat said in a statement. “Something seems fishy at this moment when state’s special position is listed in Supreme Court… Article 35(A) which grants special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir is being heard within days and the way forces personnel unleashed the spree of mass arrest and detained dozens of Jamaat members prior to the hearing seems something is hatching behind the curtains,” it said.
The Jamaat leaders and JKLF’s Malik have been detained in police stations. There were no clear instruction on the next step, police sources said.
In New Delhi, Home Ministry officials acknowledged that the crackdown on the Jamaat and Kashmiri separatists had been intensified after the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. “These extremist elements, mostly associated with Jamaat, are promoting violence. The Centre sees the Jamaat’s ideology as an inspiration for militancy in the state,” an official said.
Express Explained | What is Jamaat-e-Islami, why has its leaders been detained?
The deployment of additional companies of paramilitary forces, however, was part of the security mobilisation ahead of Lok Sabha elections, Ministry officials said. “We don’t want a sudden arrival of forces at the time of the election. They need to be familiarised with the situation and will be put on training,” a senior official said.
The additional forces deployed in the state include 45 CRPF companies, 35 companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) and 10 companies each of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). Officials underlined that the BSF is routinely deployed on internal security duty in the state, and that the additional companies have been sanctioned earlier, too.
“The additional security personnel are coming for deployment for the Lok Sabha election. They have started arriving in the Valley from today,” CRPF Inspector General (Operations) in the Valley, Zulfiqar Hasan, told The Sunday Express.
“The request for the need of additional troops was sent to the central government earlier and they have now approved 100 companies of paramilitary forces for the deployment of Lok Sabha Elections,” a senior police officer in Srinagar said. It was a “routine exercise” before the elections, the officer said.
Meanwhile, political leaders in the state reacted with outrage to the security crackdown on the Jamaat. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti posted on Twitter: “In the past 24 hours, Hurriyat leaders & workers of Jamaat organisation have been arrested. Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in J&K. Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas.”
Leader of the moderate Hurriyat Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted: “Strongly Condemn the nocturnal crackdown on Jamat e Islami leadership and cadres and the arrest of Yasin Malik. Such illegal and coercive measures against Kashmiri’s are futile and will not change realities on ground. Force and intimidation will only worsen the situation.”
People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone, an ally of the BJP, tweeted: Gov[ernment] seems to be on an arrest spree. Just a word of caution. Large scale arrests took place in 1990. Leaders were ferried to Jodhpur and many jails across the country. Things worsened. This is a tried tested and failed model. Please desist from it. It won’t work. Things will worsen.”
(With ENS, New Delhi)