Jammu and Kashmir police on Thursday arrested at least five influential Islamic clerics, their families and associates said, in what appears a crackdown on leaders of Muslim religious groups in Kashmir.
Among the arrested clerics are Abdul Rashid Dawoodi, an eminent Barelvi scholar, and Moushtaq Ahmad Veeri and Abdul Rashid Dar al Madni, both prominent Salafi leaders, sources in their families said.
Two former leaders of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami — Faheem Mohammad Ramzan and Gazi Moin-ul-Islam Nadvi — too have been arrested, a former spokesperson for the organisation, advocate Zahid Ali, said.
The police have not officially confirmed the arrests.
Dawoodi heads the Tehreek-e-Sowtul Awliya religious group and is the best-known Barelvi scholar in Kashmir. Veeri and Madni are senior leaders in the Salafist Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadees.
Officials said the government might book them under the Public Safety Act, which allows up to two years’ detention without trial and makes bail difficult, and shift them to Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail.
Ali said he too had been summoned by the police and feared arrest. “I was called by the police and am presently at Kakapora police station (Pulwama). I fear I might also be arrested. I don’t know the reason but it is completely unjustified,” Ali told The Telegraph over the phone. He said Ramzan and Nadvi may have been shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail.
The Jamaat, seen by many as the Muslim counterpart of the RSS, was banned in the run-up to the August 2019 scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Dozens of its leaders and activists were among the thousands jailed during the clampdown that followed the move.
A source from the family of one of the Salafist leaders said he had received a call from the police asking him to come to the station and bring an extra set of clothes. “He went there and has been shifted to Jammu. The police said he might be booked under the PSA. We are not aware of the charges,” the source said.
These leaders have large followings across the Valley.