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Just what is SIMI?

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July 13, 2006 16:29 IST
  • July 6: The Supreme Court rejects a plea by the Students Islamic Movement of India to lift the ban that the Government of India imposed on the organisation in 2001.
  • July 11: Seven bomb blasts rip through seven local trains on the Western Railway network in Mumbai, killing nearly 200 people and injuring at least 714 people.

As the focus shifts from the blood on the tracks to just who was behind Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the financial capital of India, one of the outfits the finger of suspicion has been raised at is SIMI.

Investigating agencies suspect SIMI is acting with the support of Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayiba, and that the collaboration is to blame for the blasts in Mumbai on Terror Tuesday, and on other occasions including the two blasts in the city in August 2003.

If you are wondering just what SIMI is, and why it hogs headlines whenever bomb blasts occur in the country, read on:

What is SIMI?

The Student Islamic Movement of India, or SIMI, is a fundamentalist student organisation that was formed at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, in 1977. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, now a professor of journalism and public relations at Western Illinois University, Macomb, USA, was its founding president.

SIMI activists say they want to convert India to an Islamic land. SIMI was outlawed in 2001 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Thought the Act has been scrapped by the United Progressive Alliance government, the ban on SIMI holds.

Where is Siddiqi now?

In the United States.

In an exclusive interview to in 2003, Siddiqi said he founded SIMI in 1977 as part of his mission to educate and enlighten the Muslim community. He is also a founding member and secretary general of the North American Association of Muslim Professionals and Scholars. Siddiqi said SIMI was set up to study Islam like in a study circle and to present Islam through lectures and seminars to students at colleges and schools.

Siddiqi now says he has no links with SIMI because the organisation has been hijacked by radical elements.

Who heads SIMI now?

Safdar Nagori, the secretary general of SIMI, is the present head of the organisation. When SIMI was outlawed under POTA in 2001, the Delhi police arrested Nagori from the SIMI office in the Zakir Nagar area of Delhi. Since then, he has been in jail, charged with sedition and inciting communal trouble in Uttar Pradesh. The police say the outfit is now operating underground.

Why did the government ban SIMI?

SIMI was banned following requests made by the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, who said the organisation had been inciting communal violence in these states.

Was that reason enough for a ban on SIMI under the anti-terrorism law?

No. Police investigations revealed that in 2001, SIMI activists were responsible for the communal riots in Pune and Kanpur and for the bomb blast on the Sabarmati Express on Independence Day. Then, the Maharashtra police arrested nine SIMI members who attempted to bomb the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad offices in Nagpur in May 2001.

In which states of India does SIMI have a presence?

Reportedly, it has strong bases and support in various universities in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. SIMI is also believed to enjoy local support in cities and towns like Aligarh, Kanpur, Rampur, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Lucknow and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh

It is believed that after the Gujarat riots of 2002, SIMI's ranks swelled.

Does SIMI have links with terrorist outfits?

The police say SIMI has links with the Jamaat-e-Islam and the Hizbul Mujahideen in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. They also say SIMI is connected with Pakistan's Inter-State Intelligence.

Reportedly, SIMI activists have had close links with other Pakistan-based terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Who funds the outfit?

It is believed that SIMI secures funds from the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Riyadh, and gets financial assistance from the Kuwait-based International Islamic Federation of Students Organisations.

What do the members believe in?

SIMI members are reportedly opposed to democracy, secularism and nationalism. They advocate among its followers the need to oppose 'man-made' institutions. SIMI also attempts to mobilise support for and establish Shariat-based Islamic rule through 'Islami Inquilab.' As the organisation does not believe in a nation-State, it does not believe in the Indian Constitution or the secular order.

How many SIMI members are there in India?

The police say SIMI has some 400 ansars (full-time cadres) and 20,000 ordinary members. But after the outfit was outlawed in 2001, most of the active members are in jail. Students up to the age of 30 years are eligible to become members. SIMI cadres consider Osama bin Laden a 'true believer of Islam' and regard him as an 'Islamic hero.'

Also Read:
'The SIMI I founded was completely different'
The new terrorists
Why does SIMI raise government hackles?
SIMI-larly, let's ban partiality

George Iype

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