OVER THE past few days, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has arrested and booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) several religious clerics from across the Salafi-Sufi divide in the Valley. While Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Vijay Kumar has said the clerics were detained because they were “instigating youth”, and that they had been warned earlier, the charges against them have not been specified.
He also said that more might face action. “There are reports that some other clerics too are involved in the same activities… Soon after we get proper evidence, they too will be booked,” Kumar said.
The Muttahid Majlis-e-Ulema, a representative amalgam of various religious, social and educational organisations of Kashmir, on Friday condemned the arrests and called for immediate release of the religious scholars and clerics. It said the arrests were meant to “tarnish the reputation” of the accused.
Earlier, a delegation of various Islamic organisations had met Lt Governor Manoj Sinha over the arrests.
Those arrested include a former chief of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami, Dr Abdul Hameed Fayaz, prominent Salafi preacher Moulana Mushtaq Ahmad Veeri, and Sufi cleric Abdul Rashid Dawoodi.
Dr Abdul Hameed Fayaz
The 66-year-old religious scholar was the Ameer-e-Aala (chief) of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Jammu and Kashmir, when it was banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs in February 2019. The Ministry accused the Jamaat of being in close touch with militant outfits and supporting extremism and “anti-national activities” in J&K and elsewhere. At the time too, Fayaz was arrested under the PSA. Two years later, the J&K High Court had quashed his detention under the stringent Act, saying police had failed to apply its mind in the case.
A doctorate in Urdu, Fayaz hails from South Kashmir’s Shopian and is counted as one of the best orators among religious scholars in the Valley. He has been associated with the Jamaat since 1976, and headed its student wing, Islami Jamiat Tulba, for 11 years. He also served as Jamaat’s secretary general for six years.
Moulana Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat alias Mushtaq Veeri
A prominent Salafi preacher, Bhat, 45, was born in Veeri village of South Kashmir’s Anantnag, and is more popularly known by his village’s name. A firebrand orator, the Moulana is associated with the J&K Jamiat Ahli-Hadith, a Salafi organisation, and is known to deliver Friday sermons at different mosques of the Valley. Part of Sunni Muslims, Salafism is a reform movement that started in the 19th century. The Salafis believe that Muslims should go back to the traditions of salaf or predecessors. The Salafi movement draws its inspiration from Saudi Arabia.
Veeri had been picked up and detained under the PSA after the abrogation of J&K’s special status on August 5, 2019, too, because of his “influence”. He was later released.
Abdul Rashid Dawoodi
A prominent Barelvi cleric, Dawoodi was born in South Kashmir’s Kulgam in 1979. After his early education from a government school, Dawoodi joined an Islamic school, where he was later appointed as a teacher for three years. In 2005, Dawoodi founded his own organisation, Saut-ul-Awaliya (the Voice of Saints). The Barelvis have Sufi influence and are diametrically opposite to and critics of Salafis.
In 2006, suspected militants had hurled a grenade targeting Dawoodi. Though Dawoodi escaped with minor injuries, five people had been killed in the attack. It is the first time he has been arrested.
Originally belonging to Imam Sahib village in South Kashmir, Moin-ul-Islam, in his 50s, was born to Hakim Ghulam Nabi, one of the founders of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir. He was also associated with the now-banned outfit for some time.
Now he is a resident of Soura in Srinagar and a prominent preacher delivering Friday sermons in different mosques of the Valley.
A resident of Lalbazar in Srinagar, Faheem Ramzan was also associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami. A religious preacher who is in his 70s, Ramzan has a dedicated following, especially among the youth, and delivered Friday sermons at a Srinagar mosque.
Ramzan was general secretary of the Jamaat when it was banned in February 2019.