The ban on Jamaat-i-Islami has come as one of the most unexpected fallouts of the developments that have followed the Pulwama attack which killed over 40 CRPF personnel. The ban was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after a high-level meeting on security chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party has been accused of indulging in activities “prejudicial to internal security and public order” and also of being “involved in anti-national and subversive activities in the country and is in close touch with militant outfits”. Following the ban, hundreds of Jama’at-e-Islami leaders were arrested in a massive crackdown by the police. Mercifully, in a belated clarification, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Sunday said the schools, mosques and orphanages being run by Jamaat have so far been kept outside the ambit of seizure. However, the ban on Jamaat stays. And this is a troubling development. Jamaat is a cadre based politico-religious party but over the past thirty years it has largely restricted itself to the propagation of religion and stayed away from politics. It has preferred to stay in the background. And from the late-nineties onwards, it slap dissociated from the militancy.
Also, if we go by the Jamaat’s history, the party despite its religious image hasn’t only been about the religion. Jamaat schools were and continue to be forward-looking in matters of education. While religious instruction in these schools is a must, it is not the paramount and exclusive focus of education like the madrassas which sprang up in hundreds across Valley through the nineties. Long before madrassas started turning out youth with knowledge restricted to religion, Jamaat produced doctors and engineers, scientists and academicians, even administrators, some of whom occupy posts in the higher echelons of the state bureaucracy. And these are the individuals who are not homogenous, uni-dimensional religious creatures as the new straight-jacketed discourse on Islam would have us believe but are normal, assorted individuals with a moderate diversity of views on the world.
But despite this the organization has been banned.The step is of a piece with the ongoing thoughtless muscular approach of the centre towards Kashmir. And this has come at a time when after Pulwama attack there was an eminent rationale for the centre to review this policy. But Jamaat ban underlines that New Delhi is intent on doing more of the same to expect a different result. In fact, the ban shows it has set about doubling down on this policy. And this is a tragedy. For this means there is little that is going to change in and about Kashmir in the near term. Here’s hoping that the centre realizes the folly of its approach towards J&K and reviews the existing policy sooner than later.