Jama’at-e-Islami and election history

Gowhar-GeelaniGowhar Geelani

Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) — a cadre based socio-politico-religious organization in Jammu & Kashmir — has finally decided to stay away from the election process. With Assembly elections due next year, this move by the JeI is seen by some observers on “expected lines” while others are quietly happy that at least the “ambiguity” over the issue of possible participation or boycott is over.

The contribution of the JeI in the fields of education, social reform and even politics in Jammu & Kashmir is undeniable, but many have criticized the organization for maintaining “uncertainty” about its participation in the elections. And then, there are people who also believe that the election boycott by the JeI is only going to benefit the two regional pro-India political forces — the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).

During the elections in 2002 and 2008, some quarters alleged that the JeI had lent a “tacit support” to the PDP in parts of the Kashmir Valley, especially Shopian and Sopore, with an aim to oust the NC from power. Some well-meaning analysts, however, maintain that this issue was actually “blown out of proportion”. The harsh reality remains that the JeI has suffered “credibility crisis” in recent times.

Thankfully, the controversy seems to be over. In its high level meeting of Majlis-e-Shoura (Central Advisory Council), the JeI has decided against fielding its candidates in Assembly elections scheduled for 2014. This news must have brought some relief to the ailing octogenarian resistance leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

It is heartening to note that in its recent meeting the organization has also remained open to the idea of independent Jammu & Kashmir.

Jama’at was founded by Abul Ala Mawdudi, a renowned theologian and ideologue of ‘Political Islam’, way back in 1941. It basic aim and objective was to promote moral values and Islamic practices.

In Jammu & Kashmir, the JeI founders included revered scholars like Ahrar and Saad-ud-Din Tarabali. Since its formation in Kashmir, the organization has been witness to many highs and lows.

In the past 72 years or so, the JeI has undoubtedly grown in stature and expanded its reach from Pakistan and India to Bangladesh and Britain. But of late, the JeI has suffered heavily at the hands of oppressive regimes, armies and state-sponsored gunmen in places like Kashmir and Bangladesh.

It is also true that the JeI has some inherent contradictions with regards to the election processes in disputed Jammu & Kashmir. it is also a historical fact that the JeI in its Central Advisory Council meeting in 1963, presided over by the then Jama’at chief, Syed Saad-ud-Din Tarabali had decided to participate in the elections— Panchayat, Municipal, Assembly and Parliamentary!

In 1965, according to the present chief spokesperson Zahid Ali, the JeI first participated in the Panchayat elections in 1965 by fielding its candidates as independent and won some seats.

Surprisingly, in 1969, a JeI delegation led by Ameer-e-Jama’at went to New Delhi to meet the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to apprise her about the tense situation prevailing in Kashmir, as many houses in the Valley were being mysteriously torched. According to Syed Ali Geelani’s autobiography ‘Wullar Kinarey’, this decision had been taken in an emergency meeting called by the JeI chief.

In 1971, the JeI, according to Zahid Ali, fielded its candidates in Indian Parliamentary elections. A year later, in 1972, the JeI also contested State Assembly elections and won five seats. SAS Geelani (Sopore), Qari Saif-ud-Din (Srinagar), Ghulam Nabi Nowshehri (Srinagar), Ali Muhammad Dar (Kulgam) and Abdul Razaq (Homshalibag) emerged as victorious candidates.

After that, the JeI also participated in 1973 Srinagar Municipal elections. It was only after the inception of the popular armed movement in 1989 which forced the JeI to stay away from the electoral process. The fact remains that despite allegations of rigging, the JeI has actively participated in the electoral process from 1965 to 1987.

 Author writes for Dawn.com. He has served as Editor with Deutsche Welle in Bonn, Germany and previously contributed features for the BBC web. ([email protected]).


  1. Dear Gowhar Geelani , i have been following your write-ups for quite some time and believe me i have become a fan of yours. I love your articulation of thought process. But i must say this piece of work is not up to the standards set by you. I will leave it up to you to commit.

  2. is it the same JOWHAR JAWANI who was bashed in a write up that appeared in gk….do u even knw what it means to write an article..sometimes u become a cricket expert… at other times u r a lead spin doctor pontificating abt issue that u can hardly comprehend.first job for u is to fix urself n ur field of expertise..r else that day wont b far away wen u vll b admitted in hospital erected alongside the ramparts of kohi maran….kalai andar…pagal khana.

  3. Dear Gowhar Geelani,
    A good article and excellent work by you over the years. Indeed it makes me feel proud that a Kashmiri journalists like you have done so much of work in a very short span of time. My only suggestion is that you should write more on non political issues like the work done by present Government on issues like unemployment, corruption, poverty, electricity crisis etc.

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