J-K Police’s mosque order sparks row
An order by the Jammu & Kashmir police seeking details on mosques and their management committees, that went viral on social media on Monday was enough to set tongues wagging about the possibility of the Centre revoking Article 35A soon.
The order was issued on July 28 by Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, Haseeb Mughal who described it as “routine police activity.”
The state is currently under President’s rule and, over the past few days, every government order is being seen as a precursor to revoking Article 35A of the Constitution that gives special privileges to the state’s domiciled residents. For instance, only they can own property in the state. On July 26, it was an order about the deployment of 100 companies of additional security forces and on July 27 it was an order by a senior railway official asking employees to stockpile rations for four months.
The revocation of Article 35A and Article 370 (the latter gives autonomy to the state government of Jammu & Kashmir) is one of the promises listed in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto for the April-May Parliamentary elections which saw the party return to power with 303 seats out of 543 in the Lok Sabha.
There has been no official statement or even signal that either could be revoked soon, but J&K is abuzz with speculation that they will be.
On Monday, the cause was the order issued by Senior Superintendent of Police Srinagar Haseeb Mughal directing SP City of South Zone, Hazratbal Zone, North Zone, East Zone and West Zone Srinagar to provide details and mosques and managements of these mosques has gone viral on the social media from Monday morning.
The order reads: “Please provide details of mosques and their managements falling under the jurisdictions as per the enclosed Performa to this office immediately for onward submission to higher authorities,’’
The details include name of the mosque, its ideological affiliation, the name of the local imam (priest), and the name of the head of the management committee.
Mughal said the request was for internal record keeping and beat book updating. “We keep updating information about different beats. When we do verification we use the same information. This is a routine police activity.”
He added that “the basic information of police stations in contained in different beat books -- schools, colleges, postal offices, banks, market complexes, liquor shops, hospitals, mosques, temples; all information is with the police and this is just an update.”
The grand Mufti of Kashmir, Nasir-ul-Islam said the order is tantamount to interference in the religious affairs. “This is being done deliberately to put Kashmir on fire. Why do they need to profile mosques and Imams?’’
Islam said that there is a notion among the people of the state that the Centre is trying to do something with 35A. “We have around 10,000 mosques only in Srinagar and most of these mosques are run by Muslim Auqaf which is a government body.’’
People’s Conference chairman Sajjad Lone tweeted: “Yet one more order is circulated on Whatsapp. Typical psychological operations aimed at scaring people. Scare is not perpetual. Wonder what is in store for us. The state seems to be so keen on investing in hatred.”
On Sunday an order from a senior railway official to his subordinates telling them how to respond to the situation in case it turns violent and the action which railways staff require to take -- stocking rations for at least four months; sending families back home -- was circulated on the media. The order was also shared by former J&K chief minister, Omar Abdullah on social media.
A senior railway official had issued a clarification in the evening saying that the senior divisional security commissioner was on a year’s study leave (from last week) and “the next in line issued the letter which is based on his own perception” and that this person “is not authorized to issue any such letter.’’
The government has banned the Jamaat-e-Islami in March and detained almost all the top leadership of the outfit. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) has also been banned and its chairman Yasin Malik has been shifted to Tihar jail.