The Indian government in Kashmir has ordered the cessation of academic activities in Falah-e-Aam Trust (FAT) schools. On Tuesday, June 14, the government ordered the sealing of all FAT schools within 15 days of the order. The government has asked the students in these schools to get themselves admitted to the nearby government-run schools. The ban comes amidst the academic session, therefore, adversely affecting the studies of the students.
The order comes in the backdrop of investigations done by the State Investigation Agency (SIA) of Jammu and Kashmir Police which alleged “gross illegalities, outright frauds, mass scale encroachment of government lands by FAT.” SIA officials have also alleged that these schools are involved in the radicalization of youth and promotion of secessionist activities.
FAT Schools in Kashmir
FAT is an affiliate of the banned Islamist organization Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir (Jama’at). Jama’at was itself banned by the Indian government in 2019. India’s Home Ministry banned the organization as “an unlawful association” under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The government accused the organization of “indulging in activities which are prejudicial to internal security and public order, and have the potential of disrupting the unity and integrity of the country” by the government.
Jama’at had participated in Kashmir’s armed struggle in the early 1990s. Jama’at activists have often called Kashmir’s prominent armed group Hizbul Mujahideen the “sword arm” of Jama’at.
In its early years of inception in the late 1940s, Jama’at carried out its program of Islamization through the publication of literature, the establishment of a network of Islamic schools, community work and political assertion.
Jama’at was concerned about the declining Islamic values and Westernization of education in Jammu and Kashmir. The organization was also worried about the Hinduization of the school syllabus in Kashmir. Therefore, there was a special emphasis on education by the organization. Knowledge and education were seen as indispensable for the Islamic revolution as envisioned by Jama’at’s founder Maududi. The quality of education in Jama’at schools in Kashmir was better than in government and Christian missionary schools. As a result, there was high demand for these schools in every locality. Political analysts claim that these schools were working to bring about a “silent revolution” in Kashmir.
Read here “The Emergence and Development of the Jama’at-i-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir (1940s-1990)” by Yoginder Sikand.
First Ban on FAT Schools
After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed an Emergency in India, Jama’at was banned in 1975. As a result of the ban, Jama’at’s 125 schools with 550 teachers and 25,000 students were forcibly shut down by the government. After the emergency was lifted in 1977, Jama’at put the administration of its schools under the control of a separate body. These schools were brought under Falah-e-Aam Trust (FAT). In 1972, FAT had been registered as a “non-political” body dedicated to “education and service to mankind.”. The trust was formally independent of Jama’at.
After it participated in the armed struggle in Kashmir, the government once again banned Jama’at in 1990. The ban continued till 1995 during which its offices and schools remained sealed. In 1990, some 11,000 students were studying in FAT-run schools. The J&K government banned the FAT association to be an unlawful Association vide SRO No. 11.51, notified on May 11 of 1990, in view of powers conferred by sub section (1) of the section-3 of the J&K Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983. Most of the students and the teachers in these schools were absorbed in government-run schools. Further, the administration of the majority of these schools was later transferred to Resident Welfare Association or the village committees.
Also read: India Gags-up Media in Kashmir
Third Ban on FAT Schools
It is the third time that the Indian government has banned FAT schools. According to FAT officials, the ban is unjustified. The trust is not an affiliate of Jama’at or any other religious organization. In their defense, FAT officials also claim that they were teaching the same curriculum as prescribed by the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education (JKBOSE).
They claim that the trust presently runs only 7 schools. After the 1990 ban, there were only 18 schools affiliated with FAT. Later eleven of these schools either stopped or de-affiliated from the trust.
Even though FAT directly controls only seven schools but the schools that it previously controlled have grown to over 330 schools with some 75,000 students and over 5000 teachers. The ban affects all 330 schools.
While the government has made it clear that the students will be allowed admission to government-run schools, the ban will render over 5,000 teachers in these schools unemployed.
What Does the Ban Mean?
FAT schools teach as per the curriculum prescribed by the government. They have shifted their focus from politics to education. Today they play a negligible role in Kashmir’s resistance against Indian rule. Despite this, the government is fearful of these schools. These schools are a relic of the armed struggle that was waged against Indian rule in the early 1990s. After the revocation of autonomy of the Jammu and Kashmir region, India’s Hindu right-wing-led government is trying to crush any potential element of resistance in Kashmir. Given their controversial history and links with Jama’at, India views FAT schools as potential troublemakers against its rule in Kashmir.