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Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami (JK-JI / JeI)

The quixotic land of hills, Jammu and Kashmir has numerous political parties trying to establish a political stronghold and keep the continuous political turmoil under control. A few sources attest the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami (AJK-JI), while a few others mention Jammu and Kashmir Jamiat-e-Islami, though mainly reference is made to Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami. Hardly any literature is available on the evolution and history of the Jama'at in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. This is unfortunate.

The Jama'at-i-Islami is, by far, one of the most influential Islamic movements in the world today, particularly strong in the countries of South Asia. Its influence extends far beyond the confines of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, and the writings of its chief ideologues have exercised a powerful impact on contemporary Muslim thinking all over the world. Much has been written about the movement, both by its leaders and followers as well as by its critics. Most of these writings have focused either on the Jama'at's ideology or on its historical development in India and Pakistan.

Among the various political parties of Jammu and Kashmir, the Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir, the Kashmiri division of the Jamaat-e-Islami deserves special mention. Separate from the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir emphasizes on its distinct identity to highlight their objective that the state of Jammu and Kashmir as segregated from the Indian subcontinent. Established in the year 1941 by Maulana Maududi, Jamaat-e-Islami, the parent organization of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir has roots in Lahore. The Indian splinter group, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is not very politically active in the state, although the separate Kashmiri entity, the Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir dominates the political scene in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Jama'at has had a long history of its own, which has followed a path quite distinct from the branches of the movement in both India and Pakistan. Furthermore, the Jama'at has played a crucial role in the politics of Kashmir right since its inception in the late 1940s, a role that has gained particular salience in the course of the armed struggle in the region that began in the late 1980s. ISI officers met regularly with representatives of the Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami and the secular nationalist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) during the mid-1980s.

On 14 November 1997, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Mohammad Bhat proclaimed his party's decision to sunder all links with terrorist groups, specifically with the Hizbul Mujahideen. This dramatic announcement enraged Bhat's major rival in the Jamaat-e-Islami hierarchy, All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The APHC chief, who also headed the political wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, claimed that the Jamaat-e-Islami chief did not have the support of his party's cadres and reiterated his "full support for the armed struggle". With effective control of the Hizbul Mujahideen having passed from the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership to Pakistan's intelligence apparatus, strains between the two had been accentuated.

In quite contrast to its Pakistani brand, in July 2000 Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami welcomed the cease-fire by Hizbul Mujahideen describing it as an initiative towards resolving the Kashmir issue by peaceful means. Jamaat Chief Ghulam Mohammad Butt said that confrontation and jingoism had driven South Asia to a deadly path and it was in the best interests of the people of the region to shun bellicosity and talk peace.

On 01 August 2004 the Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) appointed Hurriyat Conference (breakaway) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the head of its Political Affairs Committee. A JeI spokesman said a Majlis Shoura meeting decided to restore the post of head of the Political Affairs Committee and appoint Mr Geelani to the post. The Jamaat's decision is being seen as a key move to prevent Mr Geelani from floating a party.

In June 2005 Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami, a constituent of hard-line faction of Hurriyat Conference, suspended pro-Pak leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his three associates from its advisory council, deepening the fissures among Kashmiri separatists. Adding salt to Geelani's wounds, he was replaced by arch rival Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, in the Majlis-i-Shoora, the top decision making body.

On 10 August 2006 Sheikh Mohammad Hassan Tarigami was elected Amir (chief) of Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) for next three years by the council of representatives. On 14 February 2008, Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-e-Islami's amir, Sheikh Mohammad Hassan, the chief of the political formation that gave birth to the Hizbul Mujahideen, announced that he would not participate in a secessionist campaign seeking a boycott of the Assembly elections scheduled for later this year. Hassan's language was startling. "Elections," he said, "do not have any impact on the status of the Kashmir issue. If people cast their votes in the elections, it does not mean that they have given up their freedom struggle or accepted India's domination of Jammu and Kashmir." He said "I am at variance with leaders and organisations who overemphasise the election boycott campaign, which may sometimes prove counterproductive." Among these leaders is the Islamist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The Jamaat is a founder-member of his hardline Tehrik-e-Hurriyat secessionist coalition.

Ideologically affiliated but institutionally distinct from its counterparts in India and Pakistan, the Jamaat was founded by Saaduddin Tarabali. A theologian and science teacher who was among Islamist ideologue Maulana Abdul Ala Maududi's associates, Saaduddin's central concern was freeing Islam in Jammu and Kashmir of the syncretic folk practices, which he, like many religious conservatives, believed had corrupted the essence of the faith.




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