SRINAGAR: Nearly 150 people, mainly from the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir including its chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz, were detained during the intervening night of Friday and Saturday as tension gripped the Valley ahead of a hearing by the Supreme Court on Article 35A of the Constitution.
Though police termed the detentions as routine saying that leaders and potential stone pelters have been picked up in the past, officials privy to the developments said this is the first major crackdown on the Jamaat-e-Islamia.
The hearing on Article 35A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of Jammu and Kashmir, is likely to take place in the apex court on Monday.
The outfit in the past has been touted to be the political wing of the Hizbul Mujahideen, but the organisation has always maintained that it is a social and religious group.
Palpable tension was in the air and people were seen grouping at streets even as security had been tightened.
As many as 100 additional companies of the paramilitary (nearly 10,000 personnel) have been sent to the Kashmir Valley in the wake of a potential law and order situation. Officially no one has been able to provide reasons for such a massive deployment.
The Jamaat issued a statement condemning the detentions and said "...The move is a well designed conspiracy to pave way for further uncertainty in the region."
The outfit claimed that during the intervening night of February 22 and February 23, police and other agencies launched a mass arrest drive and raided many houses in the Valley, wherein dozens of its central and district level leaders were arrested, including its Ameer (chief) Jamaat Dr Abdul Hamid Fayaz and advocate Zahid Ali (spokesperson).
The Jamaat termed the raids as "fishy" at a time when the Supreme Court is to hear a petition regarding Article 35A of the Constitution.
"...The way forces personnel unleashed the spree of mass arrest and detained dozens of Jamaat members prior to the hearing seems something is hatching behind the curtains. Any attempt of eroding or tampering Article 35A is unacceptable for people of Jammu and Kashmir," it said.
Besides this, police also detained JKLF chief Yaseen Malik on Friday night. The action comes days after an audacious terror attack on a convoy in Pulwama district in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives.
Reacting to the valley-wide crackdown, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti questioned the legality of the action saying the "arbitrary" move will only "precipitate matters" in the state.
"In the past 24 hours, Hurriyat leaders and workers of Jamaat organisation have been arrested. Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in JK," Mehbooba tweeted.
"Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas," she said. Moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also condemned JKLF chief Yasin Malik's detention and the crackdown on the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir leadership, saying "force and intimidation" will only "worsen" the situation.
"Strongly condemn the nocturnal crackdown on Jamat-e-Islami leadership and cadres and the arrest of Yasin Malik. Such illegal and coercive measures against Kashmiris are futile and will not change realities on ground. Force and intimidation will only worsen the situation," the Mirwaiz posted on Twitter.
Leader of People's Conference, an ally of the BJP, Sajad Lone also said such crackdowns in the past have yielded no results. "Gov (sic) seems to be on an arrest spree. Just a word of caution. Large scale arrests took place in 1990. Leaders were ferried to Jodhpur and many jails across the country. Things worsened. This is a tried tested and failed model. Please desist from it. It won't work. Things will worsen," he tweeted.