Nothing to do with militancy, always believed in democracy, say ex-leaders of JeI

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Three former chiefs of Jamaat-e-Islami, a banned socio-religious group that is facing a major crackdown over suspected militancy links, have distanced the group from Kashmir’s militant movement and said it always followed “the path of peace and  democracy” and never indulged in activities that are against the “security of the state”.

The nine-page statement has been signed by three former emirs of Jamaat-e-Islami, the group which is banned since 2019, who include Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, Sheikh Ghulam Hassan and Mohammad Abdullah Wani. The statement was sent via the email of the ex-spokesperson of the group, Advocate Zahid Ali, on Tuesday. 

Bhat, one of the signatory, has been a crucial character in Jamaat’s hierarchy and was the emir of Jamaat during critical phases of 1985-88, when insurgency erupted in Kashmir; 1997-2000, when the group made its first volte-face and publicly distanced itself from the insurgency; 2000-03 and 2015-18. Among the other two signatories, Hassan had led the group in 2006-09 and again in 2009-12 while Wani led it in 2012-15. 

“Jamaat has always followed the path of peace and democracy for achievement of its larger objectives and never indulged in any activities which could be termed as prejudicial to the peace or public order or security of the state,” the three former leaders said.

The trio said that Jamaat never believed in “agitational politics” and had never employed any such methods which might cause “any least disturbance in the law and order situation or any kind of strife on earth.”

“It is hereby made clear that Jamaat had nothing to do with the militancy and whenever it was allowed to function, it demonstrated its regard to the democratic and lawful means and methodology,” they said.

The statement has come at a time when the former leaders and members of Jamaat-e-Islami face a major crackdown launched by National Investigation Agency (NIA) which raided sixty locations across Jammu and Kashmir this week as part of a probe against the banned organisation.

In the past, Jamaat-e-Islami’s senior leadership contested elections when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah led Plebiscite Front boycotted elections in 1967, 1971 and 1972 parliamentary and assembly elections. Then in the initial months of insurgency, Jamaat-e-Islami opposed it claiming it to be a conspiracy. 

The government agencies have alleged that the Hizbul Mujahideen has been a militant front of the Jamaat-e-Islami, led by its member Mohammad Yousus Shah alias Syed Salahuddin. In the mid-1990s, the rise of counter-insurgent militias – which called themselves Ikhwan – depleted Hizbul Mujahideen’s dominance in the region. The Ikhwan also targeted Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, who were forced to flee their natives village to escape Ikhwan’s brutal campaign of assassinations. 

The three former leaders said Bhat, who was elected as Jamaat’s emir for a second term in 1997, had addressed a press conference in 1998, when Jamaat’s ban was revoked, and “made clear that Jamaat was a peaceful, democratic and upperground” organisation and it was also declared that “Jamaat neither supported any militant outfit nor did it have its own militant outfit”. 

“It was also made quite clear that Jamaat had never supported any unlawful activity or any activity which might cause strife or disorder in the state or elsewhere,” the three former leaders said.

The three former leaders said the Jamaat has “time and again made it quite clear” that it had “no direct or tacit touch or link” with any militant group and it has “never indulged in any violent activities nor supported any such activity in its whole history of existence and functioning”.

“Anyone who deviated from the adopted policies and programs was not allowed to continue in this peaceful and disciplined cadre-based organisation,” the trio said.

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