efe-epaSrinagar, India

Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir overnight arrested dozens of Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) figures including the party chief in a crackdown against the separatists, a spokesman for the movement said on Saturday.

JeI is the oldest and strongest socio-political organization in the disputed region which is not at present part of any separatist forums but has the same separatist political ideology.

Top separatist leader, Mohammad Yasin Malik, the chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, was also detained.

“Some arrests have been made which is part of the routine exercise against the separatists,” an official at the police control room told EFE.

The police were silent on the number of people detained.

A JeI spokesman issued a statement saying “police and other forces launched a mass arrest drive during the intervening night of February 22 and 23 and arrested dozens of our central and district-level leaders including our chief, Dr Hamid Fayaz."

Sources told EFE that forces also arrested many activists of the Hurriyat Conference and raided a number of places in the southern part of the region which have witnessed a rise in militant activities since 2016 after the killing of the popular commander, Burhan Wani.

The arrests in the region came hours after the Indian Home Ministry reportedly called for an urgent deployment of 100 more companies of the central armed forces in trouble-torn Kashmir.

Separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whose government security was recently withdrawn, described the arrests as “intimidating”?

"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,” Mirwaiz tweeted.

Former Chief Minister of the region, Mehbooba Mufti, has questioned the wisdom behind the detention of dozens of Jamaat-e-Islami cadres.

"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. Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas," Mehbooba tweeted.

The situation in the region is tense after a recent militant attack killing at least 42 forces personnel.

The attack has also worsened relations between of two neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan, who claim the disputed region in its entirety and which is divided between the two by means of a de-facto border, the Line of Control.

New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting the militants in Kashmir who want an end to the Indian rule. Islamabad has repeatedly denied any such allegations and complains about the human rights situation of the Himalayan region.