In view of the huge social, educational and political ramifications, the move to outlaw an organization without following due process of law is counter-productive.

The government ban on Jamaat-e-Islami in Jammu and Kashmir, after declaring it “unlawful association” is ill-conceived, illegitimate, misleading and counter-productive. Besides the grounds on which the ban has been invoked, the methodology and its execution are highly questionable. The ban order issued by the union home ministry last week said that the Jamaat has been “indulging in activities which are prejudicial to internal security and public order and have potential of disrupting the unity and integrity of the country”.

There is no evidence placed on record to show how such a conclusion has been arrived at. The ban order simply states the “opinion of Central Government” that “Jamaat-e-Islami is in close touch with militant outfits and is supporting extremism and militancy in J&K and elsewhere” and that “it is supporting claims for secession” and “supporting militants”. Jamaat-e-Islami is a socio-political-religious organization which runs several schools, madrassas and orphanages. Religion and promotion of Islam is its core founding ideology but it is not known to have any major nuisance value in the socio-political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir. If there is evidence to the contrary, that should have been placed in the public domain before taking the drastic step of closing down everything associated with the organization and putting hundreds and thousands of its cadres behind bars.

The random arrests have been executed without making distinction between the hierarchy of leaders or between permanent affiliates and temporary members or people indirectly associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) at some point in time. While the government has maintained that schools, orphanages and mosques being run by the JeI will not be impacted by the ban, valid concerns have been raised over the impact of the action on the facilities that are purported to have been kept out of the purview of the ban. If the bank accounts of the Jamaat and its properties are fully seized, it will obviously result in choking the funding of institutions like the orphanages, schools and mosques.

The ban on JeI has larger social, economic and political ramifications. The JeI with its widespread networking is a provider in the social sector and education sector besides being an organization promoting religious propaganda. Does the government have a back-up plan to accommodate the thousands of teachers and lakhs of students who will be impacted adversely by the ban, which will not only lead to school drop-out rate and unemployment, it will create an extra economic burden on a state already riddled by financial crunch and unemployment. The fate of many of the institutions including schools and colleges that are partly funded by the JeI and the government together is so far not known. But whether or not these are shut down, there is going to be a huge economic fall-out. Looking at the huge range of institutions runs by the JeI, and its likely impact on a vast section of the population, and also in keeping with the due process of law, besides furnishing evidence, the organization should have been served with show cause notice.

It is in place to mention that the JeI was earlier banned in 1990s but the move was challenged in court and did not stand the test of legal scrutiny. The present government appears to be repeating the mistake that was earlier committed and proved to be a failure. One cannot also turn oblivious to the huge political ramifications of ban. The political situation of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Valley, is already dismal. In face of the ever-increasing anger, essentially political in nature, disillusionment and the choked political space with crackdown on separatists and even the marginalization of the regional mainstream political parties, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that where the spurt in more anger and disillusionment among the public, particularly youth, will find an expression. The reckless ban is not only counter-productive in many ways, it also smacks of hypocrisy. The nearest equivalent of a socio-religious-political organization like JeI is the RSS which should have been treated in the same coin. Needless to point out the government’s silence over the many offshoots of the RSS and its affiliates that are creating major law and order problems with cow vigilantism and other increasing cases of bullying dissenters and minorities. The JeI’s record of similar nuisance value is negligible or virtually non-existent in comparison. The ban thus appears to be the brain-child of a partisan mind.

Editorial – Kashmir Times. Dated: 3/6/2019