MHA extends ban on JKLF and allies: Hardline approach in post-Article 370 Kashmir

The bans enacted by the Home Ministry have elicited both support and criticism

Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik being produced at Patiala House court | PTI Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik being produced at Patiala House court | PTI

On a day when Jammu and Kashmir awaited news on whether the Election Commission of India would announce the holding of assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared Yasin Malik’s Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) as an ‘Unlawful Association’ for a further period of five years.

“The banned outfit continues to engage in activities that foment terror and secessionism in Jammu and Kashmir. Anyone found challenging the security, sovereignty, and integrity of the nation will face harsh legal consequences,” said Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a post on X. “Any organization threatening India’s integrity by promoting, aiding, and abetting the secession of Jammu and Kashmir through terrorism.’’

The MHA also declared four factions of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples League (JKPL) — namely, JKPL (Mukhtar Ahmed Waza), JKPL (Bashir Ahmad Tota), JKPL (Ghulam Mohammad Khan), and JKPL (Aziz Sheikh) led by Yaqoob Sheikh — as ‘Unlawful Associations’. These organisations were involved in inciting terror and abetting secessionism in Jammu and Kashmir.

The JKLF was banned by the MHA in 2019 under the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). The move came days after the Centre banned Jamat-e-Islami (JeI-J&K) under Section 3(1) of the UAPA. The JKLF was also banned under the same sections, which gives power to the Centre to declare any association as unlawful by notifying it in the Official Gazette.

The extension of the ban on JKLF and other groups signals the continued hardline approach by the centre against the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has been cracking down on the separatists in 2018 soon after the collapse of the BJP-PDP coalition in June of the same year. 

The NIA launched a crackdown on the JKLF and groups that were part of Hurriyat Conference factions led by the late Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

In the lead-up to the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, most of the separatist leaders and their supporters were arrested. After the Article 370 move, the Centre took a hardline on separatist groups and banned them for challenging the sovereignty of India. These groups include those led by Shabir Shah, Nayeem Khan, 

On December 31, 2023, the pro-Pakistan separatist amalgam Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) founded by Geelani was also banned.

Other groups that have been banned include the Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM). The DeM, an all-women separatist group operating in Kashmir, has been actively involved in advocating for the implementation of Sharia law and the secession of Kashmir from India. Led by Asiya Andrabi, the organisation has been accused of inciting anti-India sentiments and promoting radical ideologies.

The bans enacted by the Home Ministry have elicited both support and criticism from various quarters. The government argues that such measures are indispensable for preserving law and order in Kashmir and countering separatist elements that pose a threat to national security. However, detractors voice apprehensions regarding the potential for these bans to exacerbate tensions and alienate segments of the Kashmiri populace. They contend that such measures could deepen the prevailing sense of alienation and resentment among Kashmiris, potentially fueling further disenchantment.

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