The story of Jama’at-i-Islami (JI) Jammu and Kashmir

By K.N. Pandita

The cadre-based religious-political organization called Jama’at-i-Islami (JI) meaning Islamic group is distinctly different from JI Hind just because it recognizes J&K a disputed territory and not a part of the Indian Union.


JIJK originated as an offshoot of the Khilafat Movement of the first decade of the 20th century. Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, the ancestor of the Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had set up a local section of the Khilafat Movement aiming at investing the supremacy of Islamic Caliphate of the Ottomans. Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah of Kashmir created the first press in Kashmir which brought out two Urdu weeklies al-Islam and Rahnuma. These two journals purported to combat the un-Islamic practices widespread among Kashmiri Muslims. Surprisingly, Gandhi and Congress, pontificating ‘secularism’ had lent their full support to the Khilafat Movement.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, the connection between Kashmir Muslim groups with Islamic organizations outside Kashmir brought to Kashmir the Ahl-i-Hadith movement which sought to find roots of Islam in the traditions that have come down over the centuries. This organization was destined to become the source of JI later on. One Sayyid Husain Shah Batku, a Kashmiri student of Ahl-i-Hadith madrasah of Delhi returned to Kashmir and began a campaign for eradicating innovations (bid’at) in Kashmiri Muslim society. These innovations indirectly referred to the continuing impact of the pre-Islamic civilization of Kashmir. In the process, Kashmiri Muslim ‘reformist’ movement targeted the Dogra Hindu ruler and the elite Kashmiri Pandits as the obstacles in their reformist movement.

One Sa’dud Din Tarabali in present-day Shupian district of South Kashmir was the first amir (chief) of JIJK. He came from a family associated with the Sufi mystic of Srinagar, named Ahmed Sahib Tarabali. It has to be remembered that the Sufi movement in Kashmir right from the times of Sayyid Ali Hamadani (mid 15th century was a grand movement of converting Kashmiri Hindus to Islamic faith and demolishing Hindu civilizational manifestations rather than spreading the mystical practices of classical Iranian Sufism or Tasawwuf.

Many people in Kashmir, particularly in Shupian district, then a political hub, were influenced by the preachings of S’dud Din including one Maulana Ghulam Ahmad Ahrar, a member of Islamic reformist group Majlis-e-Ahrara. His family, too, had Sufi connections and was the first to become an active member of JIJK. Another earliest member of the JI was one Hakim Ghulam Nabi of Pulwama in South Kashmir, a descendant of the family of Pirs. The Pir is a sub-cast.

Before proceeding with the account of JIJK, let me add a word to throw some light on the word Pir. It is the Farsi word nearest to the meaning of Sanskrit deva a spiritual body. The ancient Hindus of Kashmir believed that the passes of high mountains were protected by the deva(s) against the ruthlessly destructive power of nature in the form of snow and hail storms and hurricanes. Therefore they added the word deva to the mountain pass. Jonraja speaking of the famous pass of Pir Panchal in South Kashmir above Hurpora in Shupian calls it Panchaladeva which was converted by the Muslims in Kashmir to Pir Panchal. It will be remembered that Pir word is suffixed to Hindu as well as Muslim names in Kashmir and also the word deva, So we have a Kashmiri Hindu name like Ramchand Deva and a Kashmiri Muslim name Ghulam Ahmad Deva. (interestingly the name of the father-in-law of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was Muhammad Abdullah Deva and Azad’s wife’s name is Shameema Dev)

Pre-partition constituency provided a solid base in South Kashmir to JI that was supporting the accession of J&K to Pakistan against Sheikh Abdullah’s NC that favoured accession to India.

In 1950s JI in Kashmir saw much expansion of the organization and it began to become popular among the Kashmir Muslim youth. It floated the propaganda that Kashmir Muslim identity was in danger of being swept away by the Hindu majority in the country. Rigging of assembly elections by NC, failure of NC to provide jobs to the Kashmiri youth, perpetuation of dynastic rule in Kashmir, inefficiency of the administration to rule with justice and equity were made the reasons for creating hatred against India and the Hindus among Jamaat cadres, The lower middle class in Kashmir, particularly in the towns like Srinagar, Anantnag, Sopor, Baramulla etc., were largely attracted to the JI. Kashmiris began sending their children to Jamaati seminaries called darsgah where only the Quran and Islam were taught. The teachers employed in these darsgahs were paid nominally by the JI exchequer but later on DR. Farooq Abdullah as chief minister absorbed all JI madrasah teachers as government employees. As JI grew in numbers and in status, the Ahl-i-Hadith began to distance itself from them for fear of being outnumbered in the valley. Although the JI did not show acute opposition to the shrine worshipping practice among the Muslims in Kashmir as was the case with the Ahl-i-Hadith, yet the Jamaat came to be accused of an extremist tendency towards Wahhabism and later of Salafism both emanating from Saudi Arabia.

In the late 1960s, there as thinking with the JI that it should somehow infiltrate into the educational and administrative arena in the State if it really meant to capture power to serve its sectarian interests. The corollary to this new thinking was that the party should take part in elections and grab power through democratic process. The JI sponsored some candidates for 1969 Panchayat elections in J&K The emergence of JI as a serious oppositional force to the National Conference reflected increasing alienation of common Kashmiris from National Conference owing to its autocratic and the perception that it had collaborated with India to decrease Kashmir\s autonomy.

The Supreme Court of India gave death punishment to the founder of JK Liberation Front, Maqbool Bhat in a murder case. While there were large scale protests in Kashmir against this sentence, the JI preached restraint and respect to the legal authority. It declined to call Maqbool Bhat a martyr (Shaheed). JI’s stance was conditioned by its ideology of Kashmir’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan while Maqbool Bhat was preaching independence of both parts of Kashmir from the control of India as well as Pakistan. In 1986 some Kashmiri Muslim youth associated with the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) founded by Amanullah Khan and his colleagues in London and in Islamabad, crossed over to PoK to receive arms training in the terrorist camps established by ISI. JI did not allow its cadres to follow the JKLF line because it did not support the independence (aazadi) line of JKLF. Ali Shah Geelani, who later supported armed struggle, asserted that the solution of Kashmir issue was to be found through dialogue. It reflects the contradiction inherent in his ideology.

The rigged election of 1986-87

Many NC workers expecting a mandate from the party were refused and joined the ranks of the Muslim United Front (MUF) the police wing of JI and later on JKLF as well. The JI created its armed wing (of course on the instructions of ISI) called Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM)who later on clashed with JKLF armed gangsters. Sons of Congress and Plebiscite Front workers were to be found in the ranks of HuM. Gradually through political diatribe like the philosophy of living with honour and dignity (izzat wa abru ka muqam) got exposed, thus coming closer to ghettoizing confines of the Muslim sub-nationalism, patronizing regressive bureaucracy, defending its myopic vision, with-holding the Kashmiris from joining national mainstream through the creation of fantasies like “Third Nation” etc., the NC contributed liberally to the process of alienation of Kashmiris from Indian national mainstream. After 1979, NC never confronted JI’s growing secessionism.

NC’s administrative mechanism became susceptible to corruption, nepotism, favouritism and inefficiency. The nexus of bureaucracy, business class or the elite and politicians with vested interests created conditions for subversion from within. It was heading for a Theo-fascist movement. NC began a negative campaign under the fake slogan of Kashmiriyat with undertones of sectarian Muslim identity.

ISI wanted the JI to become the main instrument to take up the secession. Jamaat infiltrated all organizations. It had credibility among the masses and started militancy through non-Jamaat organization JKLF. It needed a cover. Jamaat-e-lslami has created a massive structure over three decades for the indoctrination of Muslim children with fundamentalist ideology. Muslim elite became support to the Jamaatis and the ISI in Kashmir. The aim was twofold (a) creating theocratic polity and (b) merging with Pakistan. JI ideologue Maudoodi believed in Islamic ummah (community) and not nationalities. But when UP Muslim feudal joined hands with Punjabi feudal, Mowdoodi had to be silent. He had first opposed the creation of Pakistan.

JI Kashmir was banned in Kashmir for the third time during the governorship of Jagmohan. Earlier Bakhshi had utilized their support to suppress pro-Sheikh elements. Mir Qasim lifted the ban and again used them. He got five of his own party men belonging to Sadiq group (Congress I) defeated at the election. The JI candidate standing against him withdrew and in return, JI was given five Assembly seats. Thus JI established links with the administrative cadres. Mir Qasim succumbed and handed over power to the Sheikh. Incidentally, Qasim’s son, a doctor in the USA, is an active worker for the secession of Kashmir. Qasim facilitated the work of Jamaat. By 1970, the young generation of the Jamaatis responded. It had its schooling in darsgahs (religious seminaries). It talked of Nizam or socio-political system. Jamaat expanded its influence in bureaucracy, secretariat, police force, Home Guard, Bar Association, Soura Medical Instate, Muslim medicos, schools and colleges in Kashmir and Doda, Hindustan Machine Tool Factory etc. Hindustan Machine Tool Factory and Kashmir University campus became its important centre of activity.

Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba (IJT)

In autumn 1977, the students’ wing of Jamaat-e-lslami called IJT, was created. Its public pronouncements were patently secessionist. The State government took no steps to curb it. The Afghan guerrilla documentaries were screened in the house of the State CM. Ashraf Sahrai, its founder president, spoke in the first annual session in July 1978 in Srinagar and compared Kashmir struggle with liberation movement elsewhere. In 1986, a number of its basic members rose to ten thousand. It ran 300 madrasahs (religious seminaries) where indoctrination was the rule.

Iranian link

Iranian clerics took care not to give sectarian colour to the concept of export of the Islamic revolution. Moderates like Ayatollah Taloghani and Ayatollah Shariatmadari were sidelined and extremists like Ayatollah Mohtashami were catapulted into the seats of power. Iranian clerics courted Kashmiri Muslim youth. JI liked Khomeini type of uprising in Kashmir. Khomeini’s descent was traced to Kashmir.

Tajamulu’l-lslam appeared as a firebrand of JT and preached for an armed insurgency in Kashmir. Police wanted him but the bureaucracy shielded him. He escaped to Iran via Nepal. The Iranian Ambassador in New Delhi prayed in Jama Masjid of Srinagar, traditionally a stronghold of the Sunnis who did not allow Shia to enter it.

Allahwale Movement

Ahl-e-Hadith (Traditionalists) active in Kashmir for more than a century wanted to purge Islam of indigenous elements. It meant freeing popular Islam in the valley of its pre-Islamic roots. Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad, Kashmir Chief Minister believed in the Rishi (mystic) tradition or indigenous tradition of Kashmir. However, as the concept of ‘Greater Muslim Kashmir’ developed, the resultant social-religious schism posed a big challenge. A radical Islamic group originating in Deoband in UP and called Allahwale were to counterpoise a section of Kashmiri Muslims that believed in popular Islam with rich indigenous content and tradition. Allahwale, Ahl-i- Hadith and JI worked along common lines. Ahl-i- Hadith worked among the elitist group and Allahwale with the common people because their idiom and lifestyle were like those of the common people.

Allahwale is the best-organized fundamentalist movement with branches in Africa, Europe and Pakistan and also in Russia and China. They undertook to do the remaining work of the Saudis after the patch-up in Kashmir. To allay the fears of the Central government they posed as religious and good Musulmans. Tarjumanu’1-Huq was the newspaper they published. It attracted even doctors and top bureaucrats who would take leave and join its tableeghi (propagation) programme. After 1980, Allahwale spread out in entire Kashmir adopting a low profile. Silently they preached of drawing a line between kufr (heresy) and iman (faith). The communal divide was brought about carefully. Allahwale stuck to the rural base. Majority of Kashmiri militants come from the rural Kashmir. The symbols of independence give them an upward position in the social hierarchy and status ladder. Prior to 1988, they had organized three conferences in the valley. They had strict instructions to campaign strongly in North Kashmir, especially in Baramulla and Kupwara districts. This was the time when the ‘Operation Topac’ was to be launched. Many mosques came up across the valley ostensibly with funding from Al-Rabita of Saudi Arabia. The Baramulla mosque functioned as the zonal headquarter of Allahwale in Northern India.

In 1988, around the time of launching of Operation Topac, Allahwale held a big convention in Idgah in Srinagar. Dr Farooq told the Indian government that he had refused permission for the convention. But Allahwale had strong clout in the Congress Government, and it over-ruled Farooq’s pleas. Allahwale made dubious moves feigning opposition to the Jamaatis. The Union government was misled. Nevertheless, it was aware of the activities of the Islamic Study Circle established by Allahwale.

The Allahwale movement has its centre at Aligarh Muslim University. It holds its annual congregations in Bhopal at Tajul Masjid. Thousands of Kashmiri Allahwale activists attend the Bhopal congregations. They meet activist from other Indian states. Links were established to sustain the anti-India campaign. The Aligarh alumni supported Allahwale strongly.


It concentrated on non-elitist sections. Its headquarter is in Batmaloo, Srinagar. Its leadership formed the core of JKLF. It held weekly meetings almost in every educational institution. People’s League was its sister organization with leaders like Maqbool Bhat and Muhammad Altaf or Azam Inquilabi (also a Jamaati). On November 1, 1982, Mahaz-e-Azadi (Plebiscite Front), Peoples League and Jamiat-e-Tulaba (JT) met to discuss how anti-India activities could be expanded. Earlier on October 20, Muslim Conference called by Inquilabi had passed a resolution, which asked for implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir. It asked for acceptance of cultural demands of setting up an Islamic university, ban on co-education in the state, teaching of Arabic from the primary to post-graduate level, banning of cinemas, indecent ads and liquor shops. They agreed to form United Liberation Front (ULF) to fight against India. Some university teachers as members of JT asked for implementation of sharia law in Kashmir. Interestingly, while JT demanded a ban on cinema, Omar Mukhtar film went on for hundreds of shows because it showed imaginary Muslim mujahid fighting a jihad. JT secretly distributed the guidelines of Pakistan’s action plan on Kashmir. A booklet titled Hizb-e-lslami was published by it containing this confidential scheme. After giving the highlights of the insurgency plan, it concluded by saying, “Islam is our aim, the Quran is our constitution, jihad is our path, war till victory, and the God is great.”

Hizbu ‘1-Mujahedeen (HuM)

JI formed its own armed wing called HuM. It also formed a women’s wing called Dukhtaran-i-Millat. In the first phase, about 500 activists went over to receive training in PoK/Pakistan. It concentrated on the State police organization. Some well-trained commandos in the State Police organization joined HuM. Governor Jagmohan dismissed some them. Earlier three JI MUF leaders had resigned on the understanding that Pakistan was about to attack and they would head the government in Kashmir. Initial killings of the Kashmiri Pandits were undertaken by the JKLF. But after the fall of 1990, most of the killings of Pandits took place at the hands of HuM, which now wanted to eliminate all potential opponents, not only the Hindu minority. The killing of NC leaders became their concern. Mir Mustafa, Maulana Mau’di, Molavi Muhammad Farooq (father of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq) and others all fell victims to their bullets.

It is the best-armed outfit with a regular supply of arms and ammunition from Pakistan. Logistical directions come from ISI and military intelligence. Afghan mujahedeen are also represented in its ranks. Top leadership has Pakistani commandos as their bodyguards. Sudanese terrorists have also joined the outfit. Kashmiris receive training in Afghan training camps, particularly in Khost. Some died during the American attack on Osama’s camp. Three HuM militants captured by the Indian security forces said they were trained at Eram Park near Meshad in Iran.

JI split was part of its tactics. The so-called moderate wing joined the state administrative cadres. Moderates initiated a debate that Islam is incomplete without a government. Hardcore Jamaatis said their destination is not only Kashmir but also Balkanization of India.

JI an overview

Established in the year 1941 by Maulana Maududi, Jamaat-i-Islami, the parent organization of Jamaat-i-Islami Kashmir has roots in Lahore. The Indian splinter group, the Jamaat-i-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 JI 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-i-Islami and the “secular nationalist” Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) during the mid-1980s.

On 14 November 1997, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Ghulam Mohammad Bhat proclaimed his party’s decision to sever all links with terrorist groups, specifically with the Hizbul Mujahedeen. This dramatic announcement enraged Bhat’s major rival in the Jamaat-i-Islami hierarchy, All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Sayyid Ali Shah Geelani. The APHC chief, who also headed the political wing of the JI, claimed that the Jamaat 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 Mujahedeen having passed from the Jamaat-i-Islami leadership to Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus, strains between the two had been accentuated.

In quite a contrast to its Pakistani brand, in July 2000 Jammu and Kashmir JI welcomed the cease-fire by Hizbul Mujahedeen 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-i-Islami (JI) appointed Hurriyat Conference (breakaway) chairman Sayyid Ali Shah Geelani as the head of its Political Affairs Committee. AJI 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 was seen as a key move to prevent Mr Geelani from floating a party.

In June 2005 Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat-i-Islami, a constituent of hard-line faction of Hurriyat Conference, suspended pro-Pak leader Sayyid 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-i-Islami (JeI) for next three years by the council of representatives. On 14 February 2008, Jammu and Kashmir Jamaat amir, Sheikh Mohammad Hassan, the chief of the political formation that gave birth to the Hizbul Mujahedeen, announced that he would not participate in a secessionist campaign seeking a boycott of the Assembly elections scheduled for later that 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 that overemphasise the election boycott campaign, which may sometimes prove counterproductive.” Among these leaders is the Islamist patriarch Sayyid Ali Shah Geelani. The Jamaat is a founder-member of his hardliner Tehrik-e-Hurriyat secessionist coalition.

Ban imposed

In the last week of February 2019, the Governor’s administration imposed a ban on Jamaat-i-Islami in Jammu and Kashmir. Raids were conducted on its offices, madrasahs and institutions. More than two hundred Jamaatis have been rounded up. Their bank accounts running in crores have been sealed so have most of their properties been locked. This action has been taken by the Governor’s administration in the aftermath of Pulwama suicide attack in which nearly 44 CRP jawans lost their lives. The intelligence reports brought to the government were that Jamaat had become very active in providing huge funds, incriminating literature and logistical support to the gun-wielding terrorists and was adding fuel to the grave law and order situation in Kashmir valley. It is alleged that the government has specific information that JI was in close contact with Pakistani intelligence agencies and was receiving dictation from them to accelerate sedition and insurgency in Kashmir. Seniors of the JI have been arrested in Kashmir and investigation is going on about wherefrom they used to get enormous funds and how they had set up a network of anti-India activists in different garbs.

It is presumed that coming down with a heavy hand on JI of Kashmir, the funding sources of the insurgents will dry up and logistical support will be denied to them so that militancy comes down in the valley. Reportedly many peace-loving Kashmiris have welcomed the drastic measures taken by the governor in drying up the sources of the Jamaat-i-Islami.

The End

Comments are closed.