Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam analyses Kerala government’s bid to ban on Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and finds it misinformed and malicious.
Kerala government’s move to corner the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (Jamaat-e-Islami of India) and force it to the wall is unfortunate and misguided. Jamaat sources have said that keeping in view their electoral support to the Left in the last elections the Congress government has started a campaign of vendetta against it.
An affidavit filed by the government in the Kerala High Court says the Jamaat’s 1957 Constitution runs counter to the spirit of the Indian Constitution and forters anti-national feelings. Fourteen books of the Jamaat also contain similar material and need to be banned, the affidavit says.
The affidavit says that the Kerala government intends to work towards banning the organisation with the help of the Centre. On the face of it, the claims made in the affidavit look technically correct, but in essence they are not. The Jamaat, like any other human individual, group, organisation or country has evolved remarkably over the last six decades. The 1957 Constitution cited in the affidavit has undergone numerous amendments, specially on the issues mentioned in the affidavit as pointers to its “anti-national” propensities.
The Jamaat was formed over seven decades ago by a group of pious Muslims led by the late Maulana Abul A’ala Mawdudi. This group was deeply committed to a life of piety and deep religiosity and worried that under the British rule (the Jamaat was born before India’s independence from the British) Muslims could not live according to the tenets of their religion. Hence, in matters of religious practice they should avoid the government institutions, except in matters of law and order and other legal and administrative requirements. At no stage in its history it preached sedition, violence or revolt.
The 1957 Jamaat Constitution, referred to in the Kerala government affidavit does not call for armed rebellion, nor for breaking law. The Constitution, that came a decade after India’s independence, was framed by people who saw even the independent Indian republic being run under old British repressive laws and thought pious Muslims who wanted to live strictly according to religious tenets would not be facilitated by the state machinery run under those laws. They decided to live life without any help from the system, without thinking of breaking it.
The situation being what it was, there was no room left for the state to manoeuvre and ban it because its religious and political beliefs did not call for such action. All it could think of was to somehow convince the Jamaat of its own intent of fair play. In this way, the Jamaat did not call for a ban, but a greater tolerance for political diversity. Its situation was like that of the Mormon Christian church in the United States where singing of the national anthem (Star-Spangled Banner) is mandatory and monogamy legally binding on everyone.
When Mormon children refused to sing the national anthem in schools on the religious grounds that as Mormons they cannot euologise anyone except God the US Supreme Court upheld their position and asked schools not to force them to sing Star Spangled Banner against their wish. Whatever dichotomy the Kerala state is seeing between the Jamaat Constitution of 1957 and India’s Constitution needs to be seen in the spirit of the US Supreme Court in the case of Mormon children.
The democratic spirit requires not hair-splitting but accommodation of a minority’s way of doing things. The whole of US follows a single-wife criterion as per law, but the Mormons are allowed multiple wives as their version of Christianity desires, encourages and promotes it. Nobody calls them lawbreakers for that.
Coming back to the 1957 Constitution, as pious Muslims the Jamaat men and women think that the only text that will never change is the Word of God, the Quran. All other texts, including the Jamaat’s Constitution, can have different versions, and are liable to change. In its bid at mainstreaming and making the Jamaat’s way of life more easily understandable by common Muslims, the Jamaat has gradually transformed over the decades.
From its early mission statement of creating God’s Rule on earth it moved on, over the decades, to establishing a Nizam-e-Mustafa, the Prophet’s (PBUH) way of life, before moving on to Aqamat-e-Deen, or establishment of faith, which can be translated in Hindi as Dharm ki asthapna. Now, nobody can seriously think of banning somebody on these grounds.
As the Jamaat of India (not to be confused with Pak, Kashmir or Bangladesh Jamaat) increased its interactions with democratic, liberal, left and human rights organisations, it dropped its self-imposed embargo on fighting elections, canvassing support for electoral candidates, becoming members of elected bodies and joining government services. Thus it cannot be hauled up for all these as it no longer observes the embargo. The Kerala government enumerates the above points in its argument. The Kerala government is running half a century behind the Jamaat and its affidavit misses the vital point.
How unfair, selective and ill-intentioned the Kerala government is can be known from the fact that so far nobody thinks of banning the RSS and its frontal organisations, which do not believer in the Constitution and openly declare that they would scrap the Indian Constitution and replace it with a bhagwa sambidhan (saffron constitution). They did try the first step of changing it during NDA rule before scrapping it later when they have a complete majority in Parliament.
Some distinctions of Indian Jamaat with others is also important the way Ceila Duggar of New York Times did with Darul Uloom Deoband in Deoband and Deobandis in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She said the Indian version (which is the original) was absolutely different from the Af-Pak versions as the Indian version had grown over the last six decades in a different political climate. The Jamaat of India, too, is different in its political orientation and context from others.
There are so many other reasons (for which this space is short) why the idea of a ban on the Jamaat is unintelligent, short-sighted and whimsical. An important point to remember is that in democracies bans on organisations do not always make sense. Banning and forcing organisations underground leads to the gradual sidelining of moderate leaders and takeover by new, impatient and extremist youth who can lead the organisations into troublesome territory.
The affidavit says no violent or disruptive activities by Jamaat members have been discovered during investigations. The Jamaat is not RSS, Ram Sene, Hindu Munani or Bajrang Dal who indulge in violent activities. No proof of violence or disruption can be found against the Jamaat because it does not believe in violence or armed rebellion. Thus any thought of banning it should be dropped quickly as a bad idea.