IMAGE: A security personnel stands guard near a blocked road during restrictions in Downtown Srinagar, on Friday. Authorities have imposed restrictions in parts of the city as a precautionary measure in view of apprehensions of law and order after the Centre banned Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for five years. Photograph: S Irfan/PTI Photo
Three prominent leaders of the recently banned Jamaat-e-Islami were arrested and nearly a dozen assets sealed during raids across six districts of Jammu province, police said on Sunday.
The day-long raids on the offices and houses of JeI leaders and activists were conducted in Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Poonch, Rajouri and Jammu districts on Saturday, during which a large quantity of incriminating documents were seized for scrutiny, a police officer said.
He said at least six bank accounts linked to the group have been identified and the banks concerned directed to immediately freeze them.
The Centre on Thursday banned Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for five years under anti-terror law on grounds that it was 'in close touch' with terror outfits and was expected to 'escalate secessionist movement' in the state.
A notification, banning the group under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs after a high-level meeting on security, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Top leaders of the organisation along with over 150 activists were arrested in Kashmir Valley, where the group has a large presence, last week.
Mohammad Majeed Sheikh, Mohammad Iqbal Naik and Ghulam Qadir Bhat were arrested from Kishtwar district, where another Jamaat leader, Ghulam Nabi Gundana, was put under house arrest as he had undergone a surgery recently, the officer said.
He said two Jamaat activists, who were detained in Doda, were later released after questioning.
All schools run by JeI in the districts were searched during the raids on Saturday, the officer said adding these schools were not sealed but are being kept under surveillance.
Meanwhile, vice president of state Congress and former minister G M Saroori voiced his resentment against the crackdown on JeI and said the action against the group is against the democratic set up of the country.
"Jamaat is not a terrorist organisation... It is running over 300 schools in the state for six decades and providing employment to thousands of educated youth," Saroori, who hails from Kishtwar district, said.
He said the action against the religious organisation seems 'politically motivated' in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
"If government has any proof against Jamaat, it should make it public.
"The action against anyone involved in terrorism or waging war against the country is justified but banning a group which is involved in religious preaching and believes in Islamic ideology is against the democratic values," he said.
Referring to the arrest of Mohammad Iqbal Naik from Kishtwar, he said he is a thorough gentleman, who served as a doctor before his retirement.
"We have never seen him indulging in anything wrong. If anyone is involved in terrorism, the action against him is justified but banning any group and putting its activists in jails is not in good taste," he said.
Jammu and Kashmir National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah also said the ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami 'is having a major social impact' in Kashmir and appealed to the government to 'urgently review' its decision to seal schools and mosques run by it.
'The politico-religious role of the Jamaat (JeI) is one aspect but there is also the social aspect. The recent ban is having a major social impact which isn't being taken into consideration,' Omar wrote on Twitter.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said people were being 'turned away from mosques' where they usually congregate for prayers and schools with tens of thousands of students and employing thousands of teachers were being 'sealed'.
'There is nothing to suggest (that) sealing mosques will improve the security environment.
'Sealing schools risks forcing so many young kids out on the streets rather than studying to make a future for themselves,' he said.
Omar said that while the government may take some time to review the need to ban the organisation, 'there is a need to urgently review the ban on schools and the sealing of mosques'.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) also opposed the ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami.
"The ban is part of a provocative and motivated crusade against a particular community.
"Political advantage is being extracted out of the prevailing hostile situation by creating deep divisions amongst sections of the society," a KCCI spokesman said in a statement in Srinagar.
"The onus is on the government to start explaining to the public the compulsions justifying targeting of religious institutions belonging to a particular community.
"Sealing of residential houses and schools violates the basic principles of humanity and demonstrates the desperation of people after global rejection of their politics of hate, communalism and pernicious designed propaganda," the KCCI spokesman said.