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Protests as Indian government toughens stand in Kashmir

Curfew imposed in Srinigar after violence erupts over five-year ban for Jamaat-e-Islami

Umar Manzoor Shah, Srinagar

Umar Manzoor Shah, Srinagar

Updated: March 12, 2019 04:49 AM GMT
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Protests as Indian government toughens stand in Kashmir

Shops remain closed in Srinagar, capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, on March 7 during a shutdown called by separatist groups protesting the detention of leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, which was banned on March 1. (Photo by IANS)

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Protests have broken out in India’s Kashmir region against the federal government banning one of the region’s largest and oldest Islamic organizations.

The state administration imposed a curfew on March 8 in several areas of state capital Srinagar in an attempt to contain the spread of violence. Police also sealed Kashmir’s largest mosque to prevent Friday prayers.

The protest began after the federal Home Ministry on March 1 banned Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir for five years, saying it was involved in activities aiming at disrupting India's integrity.

The sociopolitical organization founded in 1945, two years before India and Pakistan were created from British India, supports the view that the Muslim-majority area of Kashmir should have been part of Pakistan.

Soon after the ban, hundreds of its activists and supporters were arrested by police and sent to prisons across the state.

Most separatist leaders who want the region to be freed from Indian rule are former members of Jamaat-e-Islami.

On March 7, police arrested separatist leader and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik under a special law that requires him to undergo two years of imprisonment without any trial.

The Muslim organization supports Pakistan’s view that the dispute needs to be resolved according to international laws.

India considers Kashmir an integral part of the country and anyone who questions that stance could be supporting anti-Indian activities.

Counterproductive ban

“If the government thinks they can stamp out resistance in this manner, they are mistaken. It will help spread anger in the entire society and make any reconciliation impossible,” said Hameeda Nayeem, chairperson of the Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies, a civil society group.

Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister and president of the Peoples Democratic Party, said her party will intensify protests to force the government to revoke the ban.

“Our religious clerics are being bundled into jails and thrashed. People aged 70 to 80 years are being imprisoned. Offices of Jamaat have been sealed. We will not allow this muscle power. We want the ban to be revoked and these elderly people to be released,” she said.

The banned organization runs 370 schools and 75 orphanages in the region, helping thousands of students. The government has clarified that the ban will not affect these institutions.

But Manzoor Ahmad Mir is worried about two of his daughters studying in one such school because he doubts the practicality of the situation. All the offices of the organization “are sealed, all its accounts are frozen, its leaders are arrested. Who will run these schools and orphanages?” Mir asked.

A senior government official told ucanews.com that it has been instructed to stop the activities of Jamaat-e-Islami because it is inciting people against the Indian government and luring youth to become militants.

However, Ajaz Nabi, a Jamaat-e-Islami supporter, said the move is political to galvanize the Hindu vote ahead of general elections in April-May. A tough stand against Muslims will help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win Hindu votes across India, he said.

He questioned why the government had banned the organization only ahead of elections. “They were in power for the past five years and found no reason to ban Jamaat,” he said.

The Kashmir insurgency that erupted in 1990 has already claimed at least 100,000 lives, including those of civilians, militants and members of the security forces.

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