Jama’at Line

The controversy that erupted over a unionist leader speaking at a Jama’at organized function ended in drawing clear lines between unionists and separatists. Shah Abbas talks about the fault lines that simmer within the party 

Much before Er Rashid walked in to address a Jama’at-e-Islami function at Jammu, a grapevine in summer capital was: Jama’at is up to something! Those who sniffed it didn’t rationalise it until the firebrand MLA, known for making controversies, created the only controversy of its kind in the cadre-based party.

Shortly a mass mobilisation of Rukuns and Rafiqs of Jama’at was triggered across Kashmir. An immediate complaint lodged was: how could a unionist encroach upon the space meant for pro-freedom people?

But there were some, who asked: Are the unionist politicians of Kashmir so ‘untouchable’ that Jama’at-e-Islami chief had to seek unconditional apology for inviting a lawmaker to speak at a function?

A barrier has come up over the years between separatist and unionist politicians who profess and propagate different political ideologies.

“Jama’at’s latest stand on Er Rashid controversy speaks volumes about the political division in Kashmir,” says a political science teacher at college level. Jama’at’s latest posture will surely compel the unionist politicians to think at least once about themselves, he believes.

“Religiously, Jama’at has no reason to stop Rashid or anybody else from speaking at its functions but yes, politically the party cannot afford it as Rashid belongs to a quite contrary political ideology,” says Showkat Parray, another political science teacher.

Politicians in Kashmir are generally categorised into unionists (who take part in election process) and separatists (who follow the boycott policy over the years).

But for Rashid, there is another category of Kashmiri politicians, the ‘realists’. “I am neither a separatist nor a unionist, I am a realist,” Rashid told Kashmir Life.

“I feel the people’s pain and want their rights to be granted to them, and that is all,” Rashid added. When asked about the Jama’at controversy, Rashid first declined to comment however when insisted, said, “I fail to understand what are they trying to prove themselves. Don’t they remember the days when they were in the assembly? Then where are they different from me?” Rashid also spoke about the role of Jama’at in militancy and its ‘backtracking’ later.

“I don’t want to comment on the whole issue otherwise, Hum Bhi Munh Mein Zuban Rakhtay Hein.” (I too can speak) There is no yardstick to judge if a person is pro-India or pro-freedom, he concludes.

The controversy according to a Jama’at activist, who works for the party at its head office, taught the party leaders a ‘lesson’.

“We had an illusion that our basic cadres are now not so active to react to every party move but we were wrong,” says the Jama’at office bearer. “Jama’at office received hundreds of individuals from nook and corner and dozens of delegations asking questions about inviting Rashid to speak at Jammu.”

Such was the pressure built, he says, that calling a Shora meeting became inevitable.

Jama’at was till recently a constituent of first united Hurriyat Conference and later Hurriyat led by Syed Ali Geelani.

Jama’at is known for its role in the separatist movement in nineties when its cadres were part and parcel of almost every activity.

According to Parray, the Jama’at people suffered every type of loss at the hands of government forces including army, Ikhwanis and STF. They were massacared and their properties were damaged systematically.

The socio-religious party later ‘softened’ its stance. And, during the tenure of former chief Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, the party went to the extent of saying: “Kashmir issue belongs to every citizen irrespective of religion. So, why only Jama’at would offer sacrifices?”

Jama’at even took a strong stand against Geelani, who was adamant that Jama’at should lead from the front: what he is calling the ‘freedom movement’?

The party after serious differences allowed Geelani by virtue of a written agreement to launch his own party (Tehreek-e-Hurriyat). However, it did not terminate him and his close associates including Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Shah Wali Mohammad and Mohammad Abdullah Sheikh from the Jama’at.

“Geelani Sb, Sehrai Sb, Shah Sb and Sheikh Sb are still basic members of Jama’at,” says Hurriyat (G) spokesman Ayaz Akbar. They, he continues, haven’t been verbally or in writing informed about their termination from the Jama’at.

The changed stance saved Jama’at cadres from the wrath of government forces which had otherwise pushed them to the wall. But the most active party on social and religious front faced criticism from within. And, people started criticising its leadership for what they called “a silent surrender”.

Jama’at, however, time and again clarified that its stance on the Kashmir dispute hasn’t changed. “Kashmir dispute should be resolved keeping in view its historical perspective,” is the literal tagline of its statements issued almost on daily basis.

Jama’at-e-Islami chief, Mohammad Abdullah Wani recently sought unconditional apology for inviting Rashid to a party function at Jammu on February 15.

“Inviting a pro-India politician to speak at a Jama’at function was a serious blunder,” he said.

Taking responsibility of the serious “blunder,” Jama’at chief sought unconditional apology from Shora members. He also apologised on behalf of his deputy and Jama’at general secretary.

MLA Langate, Rashid may be right while adding to the existing categories of the Kashmiri politicians but Jama’at move has drawn a clear line between separatists and the unionists, which is more visible and prominent.

“Either you are on this or that side of the line,” a senior scribe believes. “There is not any meeting place or a common ground.”

But is it appropriate for a Dawah party like Jama’at to create distances for people – just because of their political ideologies – is a question being raised even in the Jama’at circles itself.

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