On 6 April, The Caravan published an article titled, “Keeping the Faith: How the Jama’at chronicles the failure of mainstream politics in Kashmir,” by the research scholar Basharat Ali. A little over a month earlier, the Indian government had banned the Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, an Islamist socio-political organisation that has been present in the region since 1952. Ali traced the history of the Jama’at in the wake of the ban—the third imposed by the Indian government in the organisation’s history. He argued that all three bans came at points when “pro-India mainstream political parties in Kashmir were at their weakest and the Indian government was confronted with an upsurge in the Kashmiri resistance movement.”
Published below is a rejoinder to the piece by Shahid Lone, a writer and research scholar. It is followed by Ali’s response.
The article, “Keeping the Faith,” contributed to the existing broad-based literature on the Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir despite its surface analysis. Apparently, it attempted to contextualise the ban on an organisation whose popularity, the article concedes, “supersedes that of any political group in Kashmir today.” However, I believe that the article, in its orientation and details, highlights what is important, but hides what is crucial. In the process, the distinct history and character of the Jama’at became a serious casualty.
Given that the Jama’at leadership is behind bars and cannot respond to any misrepresentation of their organisation and its history, I expected extra caution by the author and The Caravan in their analysis. A skimmed reading of primary sources, or at least a thorough reading of secondary sources, would have helped in an appropriate analysis. Besides, The Caravan is an opinion maker for Indian readers, and specific omissions could be misleading. This brief rejoinder highlights a few such glaring omissions and factual inaccuracies in the article.
The article, after an elegiac cadence, makes a bizarre claim that the Jama’at advocates the creation of an autonomous state of Kashmir governed by Islamic law. This is a flawed assertion ascribed to the Jama’at because it considers Kashmir an unfinished agenda of partition. Through its official journals, Azaan and Moomin, and in multiple resolutions passed by its advisory council, the Jama’at has insisted that Kashmir is a disputed territory. The Jama’at wants the implementation of the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions or tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir to resolve the dispute.