Jamaat-e-Islami, the socio-cultural and religious organization of Jammu and Kashmir, which deviated from its goal and actively involved itself in the militancy through its armed wing, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) during its last eight years, is now reverting back to its original goals to ensure its survival. The moderates within the party, who now have an upper hand in the functioning of the party, are weary of militancy in the valley and are tactically disassociating themselves from their armed wing. Similar feelings are being echoed by local JEI units.
The Beginnings: JEI J&K was established in 1942 by Pir Said-ud-din. Initially it concentrated on spreading the Wahabi cult of Islam and refrained from participating in elections. It started cadre-building and spread its influence through Dargahs and madrassas.
It floated a number of frontal bodies including Islamic Study Circle, to subvert the government servant and intellectuals. The Falah-e-Aam Trust was created in 1988 to run JEI schools following a ban on the JEI. The products of these schools were targetted by their Pakistan masters, exfiltrated to Pakistan, trained in arms and ammunition, and infiltrated back to carry on their subversive activity. These students were taught in their schools what Sufis 'never did say'.
Jammat Turns Militant: During 1988-89, the Jamaat supported militancy only indirectly, but it got directly involved when, under the influence of Pakistan's secret service, ISI, it accepted the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) formed in 1989 as its militant wing. The Hizbul Mujahideen assumed ascendancy among other major groups and mercilessly slaughtered the innocents until the emergence of counter insurgency groups in the valley in the later half of 1994 and their targetted attacks on JEI/HUM activists. The failure of Pakistan to intervene directly in Kashmir demoralised the party ranks.
JEI seeks establishment of a state based on the Islamic order and Nizam-e-Mustafa, challenges the fact and finality of J&K state's accession to India and strives for merger J&K with Pakistan. Such ideas were never popular amongst Kashmiris, who first and foremost, believed in their own distinct identity and who by and large have not accepted the Deobandhi school of thought.
Rank and File Protests: The moderates within JEI are now weary of militancy and there is widespread resentment in the ranks about the ostentatious life style of JEI leaders. Besides, there has been a general perception among the people that JEI leaders have made good during militancy when the common man was suffering.
The disillusionment was evident when senior leaders, Syed Nashir Kashani, Qari Saif-ud-din and others (mostly moderates), expressed their unhapiness over the state of affairs and erosion in the party ranks. These modearte leaders expressed resentment over the present system of functioning and advocated for a change in the party's approach and line of action. The resentment grew to the extent that Mohd. Ashraf Sehrai Qayam-e-Jamaat resigned alleging denial of a free hand in discharging his duties.
New Ameer e Jamaat: Owing to the pressure under which JEI is functioning, some amendments were made in the recent elections held for new Amir-e-Jamaat. Previously, Majlis-e-Numadigyan elected by Rukuns of the party was the electoral college for electing Amir-e-Jamaat. Now in the changed circumstances and the pressure under which JEI is functioning, it was decided that Rukuns will directly elect Amir-e-Jamaat. With the election of a religious personality Ghulam Mohammed Butt as the Ameer, Gilani and his coterie for the time being have been sidelined.
The new Ameer, in a tactical move to ensure the survival of Jamaat, is talking of a "negotiated settlement" of the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir and has suggested that all parties should prepare for a sincere and honest dialogue to resolve it peacefully. (The Pioneer dated Oct 27).
This is for the first time in the past eight years that such a policy statement has come directly from the Ameer. The Jamaat was earlier headed by Maulana Hakim Ghulam Mohd. The Nabbi remained aloof from the politics of turmoil. All through his tenure, the Jamaat's position on politics and militant issues was dictated by Syed Ali Gilani, the chief of the political wing.
Recent killings of top ranking HM leaders, Naseeb-ud-din-Gazi and Firdaus Kirmani, have been a big setback for the JEI forcing the top rung leaders to cross over to Pak/Pok fearing elimination. Riaz Rasool, one of the seniormost leaders, is reported to have crossed the border.
JEI is now trying to mend fences with local pro-India militant leaders operating in different parts of the valley through local elements so as to stop the crackdown on JEI cadres.
The Ending: JEI is fast losing its base among the people. The killing of religious leader of Anantnag, Qazi Nissar, made the average Kashmiri lose faith in the Jamaat. There were large scale demonstration against JEI and Pakistan sponsored militancy.
The local population, having wearied of the gun culture, has stopped supporting the seccessionist elements as they have realized that what they could not achieve till now, will never be achieved, and the so-called champions of Jehad were more interested in amassing wealth in their own name rather than fighting for the cause of liberation. The elimination of the leaders of JEI was possible only with the help of locals. These fundamentalists tried to break in the ethos of Kashmiriyat -- Peaceful co-existence of peoples of different faith -- since time immemorial rather than for the cause of liberation.
In a surprise move, at least 50 pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) leaders of Kulgam in south Kashmir on 23 October 1997 publicly denounced terrorism and vowed to eliminate militancy and work for the establishment of peace and tranquility in Jammu and Kashmir. This was reported in the local press. The same day, the new Ameer e Jamaat issued a please for a ngotiated settlement. (read story below)
In April this year, CBI acted against SAS Gilani for siphoning off millions of dollars of foreign donations intended to rebuild Charar-e-Sharief.
The JEI spearheaded the campaign against the democratic process of addressing religious Ijtemahs and joint public meetings in contradiction to their earlier stand in 1972 when toeing the line of JEI Pakistan they had actively participated in the democratic process.
Srinagar 23 Oct 97: Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Mohammed Butt has favoured a "negotiated settlement" of the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir and suggested that all parties should prepare for a sincere and honest dialogue to resolve it peacefully.
Speaking to The Pioneer at his residence on Wednesday, a day after his release from jail, the Jama'at chief lamented that death and destruction had become a perennial feature in the state and that much blood has been spilled.
"Whoever is being killed is, after all, a human being. All the contending parties should, without allowing more bloodshed, exhibit maturity and sagacity and reconsider their claims and counter-claims on Kashmir. They should put their heads together to find an amicable and acceptable solution to the dispute," he said.
"India should show flexibility in its attitude if she really wants peace and prosperity in the region. I believe that sincere efforts from all sides can definitely lead to resolution of the crisis," Mr Butt said.
Widely known as a moderate politician and a humble religious personality, Ghulam Mohammed Butt was elected Ameer (chief) of the Jama'at-e-Islami early this month when he was in prison.
This is for the first time in the past eight years that such a policy statement has come directly from the Ameer.
The Jama'at was earlier headed by Moulana Hakim Ghulam Nabbi. However, he chose not to play any role in the prevailing politics of turmoil.
All through this period, the Jama'at's position on political and militant issues was represented by Syed Ali Geelani, the chief of its political chapter.
The new chief said that he wanted to make the Jama'at more transparent, and that their position on every issue should be more "lucid and limpid".
"Some wrong impressions have been created about the Jama'at and wrong things are being attributed to us. My foremost task will be to remove these doubts," he said. Mr Butt added that the Kashmir issue was not the creation of his party.
"It is the creation of history even before Jama'at-e-Islami was formed," he claimed adding that the party's stand was no different from those who regard it as a dispute.
Dismissing the notion that his party has militant leanings, the leader said that the Jama'at-e-Islami has all along been a politco-religious organization.
"Our party should be read and seen through its message and the programme, and not through the propaganda of vested interests," he said. Mr Butt also said that this was not the first time that he had pleaded for a negotiated settlement of the dispute.
"I pleaded this with a galaxy of Indian intellectuals at the Delhi residence of Mr I K Gujral in 1993 when militancy was at its peak in Kashmir," he added.
He regretted the "inhuman" treatment of the people of the state by security forces. Referring to the public parade of over 100 Jama'at activists at Kulgam in south Kashmir on Wednesday, he wanted to know what the security forces wanted to communicate by forcibly parading Jama'at's supporters in public.
"Forcing people to make statements never means that they have changed their minds," Mr Butt said.
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