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Anantnag and Srinagar bypolls: Jamaat-e-Islami asks cadre to stay away from elections

Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and president of National Conference, Farooq Abdullah, may have asked Jamaat-e-Islami to help the NC and Congress fight the RSS-backed government, but the socio-political organisation has supported the government in its mouthpiece Momin and asked its cadre to stay away from the elections.

Jamaat, most of whose cadre had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen, noted in Momin that the government has created many health facilities for people in the state, while referring to psychiatric conditions that have affected people. However, it has asked the government to take steps to improve the healthcare at the psychiatric disease hospital, Srinagar. In a dated 17 March, 2017 editorial in its mouthpiece about the rehabilitation of pellet victims, Jamaat has asked the government to provide jobs to the pellet-victims so that they don’t remain a burden on their parents.


File image of Jamaat-e-Islami, Jammu and Kashmir president Ghulam Mohammad Bhat (second from left). PTI

Although the piece lashed out at the forces for the indiscriminate use of pellet guns, asking the government to take steps in the health sector (and even acknowledging the work done so far) marks a clear departure from the line that is taken by other separatist organisations that have refrained from speaking on developmental issues. Separatist political parties including the Hurriyat (G) led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Hurriyat (M) led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have asked people to desist from electing the government and have held that the Kashmiris can’t be bought by developmental projects like the recently-opened Chenani-Nashir tunnel.

Jamaat spokesperson Advocate Zahid Ali said that there is a proper editorial board that monitors the newspaper policies and any "errors could be rectified". Jamaat has however asked its cadre to refrain from polls, but has desisted from asking people to boycott the upcoming polls for the two parliamentary bypolls of Srinagar and Anantang — that are scheduled to be held on 9 and 12 April respectively. In the Srinagar constituency, Abdullah is facing PDP’s Nazir Ahmad Khan, while in Anantnag, state Congress president GA Mir is pitted against Tassaduq Hussain Mufti, brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

On Monday, while addressing an election rally at Kangan, Abdullah sought Jamaat’s support to defeat the PDP in the elections. "PDP has ashamed and embarrassed Muslims in general and Kashmiri Muslims in particular by aligning with the RSS in the state. RSS represents decades of suppression of Muslims across the country and has openly advocated the abrogation of Article 370," he said. Making an appeal to unite against communal forces, Abdullah said that the elections were about the battle against the BJP and RSS.

However Ameer-i-Jamaat, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, said that the organisation has nothing to do with the elections. "We have asked our cadre to stay away from elections," he said. In the 2002 election, there were allegations that some of the Jamaat cadre had voted for PDP, which was however vehemently denied by the group. Jamat has a very strong cadre particularly in Srinagar as well as the South Kashmir areas of Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama, which are part of the Anantnag constituency.

A strong cadre-based organisation, it has been laying emphasis on following Islamic principles that are also believed to be the ideological pull for youths to join the militancy. Most of its cadre had been drawn into militancy and joined the Hizbul Mujahideen, which is seeking the merger of the state with Pakistan. Unlike other separatist organisations, Jamaat is however allowed to organise religious functions and has its offices in most districts of Kashmir. The group has maintained that the resolution of the Kashmir problem can be arrived at through a tripartite dialogue, while keeping in consideration the UN Resolutions on Kashmir.

But given the way the organisation has recognised government efforts, the stand is seen largely as one that is also maintained by the mainstream political parties. PDP has been been advocating the tripartite dialogue on Kashmir, while mainstream politicians like Independent MLA, ER Rashid, have been openly advocating that Kashmir is a dispute and people should be given the right to exercise referendum.

The turnaround in the policies of the Jamaat is largely due to its present chief, Bhat, who was the first to distance himself from militancy. He was elected for a period of three years and his last stint as Jamaat chief was from 1997 to 2003. Jamaat is not the part of the Hurriyat Conference lead by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, even though some sources in the Hurriyat (G) said that it is being invited to participate in party activities. Bhat said, "We are not a part of Hurriyat (G). If Hurriyat (G) says we are part of it, that's wrong. If tomorrow, Narendra Modi says we are part of his party, shall we believe him?"

Updated Date: Apr 04, 2017 15:29 PM

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