Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Simi and its flock

S Gurumurthy
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 04:19 IST

S Gurumurthy tracks the growth of an organisation with an impressive terror record, from its days as a fringe group to one capable of striking at the country’s very existence

A few publicly known facts expose the state of the Indian debate on Islamist terror. The Gujarat serial blasts that killed over 50 and injured over 200 took place on July 26, 2008. The previous day’s blasts in Bangalore did not yield the rich harvest of blood like the one in Gujarat. What’s more, in the days following the serial blasts, Gujarat police kept uncovering and defusing dozens of live bombs in Surat that fortunately did not explode. Even as the recovery of such bombs was being telecast live on all channels, a Delhi court on August 5 annulled the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) faulting the UPA government for providing “no fresh evidence” to continue the ban.

Now, how did the ‘seculars’ react to the court lifting the ban on Simi? Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav, the two crutches of the UPA government today, welcomed the lifting of the ban, saying it was wrong in the first place! Congress party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said lifting the ban on Simi was “no setback” for the Congress!!! He went one step further and said: “Wherever terrorist attacks have taken place in the recent past — Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat — it is the state governments which are investigating the matter. It is their responsibility to submit the evidence against Simi to the central government,” almost implying that, since the state governments haven’t provided any, no evidence exists against Simi. Other secular parties, the “seculars” in the NDA included, were careful not to fault the government for allowing Simi to escape terror charges. Stunned by the court’s view that “fresh evidence” of terror was necessary to keep the ban on, the government rushed to the supreme court and got the ban extended.

It was in the background of such prevarication on Simi that the Gujarat police broke the news on August 16 that it had arrested 10 top Simi officials and activists who had masterminded the Gujarat blasts; and also the blasts in Rajasthan and elsewhere. As part of the fastest terror investigation in the world, it also came out with the irrefutable story of how the terrorists conspired, how many of them and when and where, with identities, dates, sequences and locations.

When the seculars were handing out negative certificate of good conduct to Simi thanks to the court order, a study by the Institute of Conflict Management headed by KPS Gill, the terror of the Punjab terrorists, had already catalogued over a hundred incidents from 2000 to July 2008 that characterised Simi as a terror outfit. Its cadre had been charged as motivators and perpetrators in major terror attacks in between 2002 to 2008. These included terror attacks in Ghatkopar (2002) Ville Parle and Mulund (2003) in Maharashtra; at Ayodhya and Varanasi (2005) in UP and in Delhi (2005); the Mumbai train and Malegaon blasts (2006) - to mention a few. State governments including the Congress and communist governments and the UPA government at the Centre had told courts and parliament at different times that Simi was an anti-national, terrorist organisation; that it was linked to Lashkar-e-Toiba and other Islamist terror outfits; that huge quantities of arms and ammunitions including RDX were seized from their hideouts and cadres. In February 2007, holding Simi to be secessionist, the supreme court said it had not stopped its activities when its counsel pleaded that after 2003 there was no evidence to link it to anti-national activities. More, it is the secular Maharashtra government’s police which alleged in a charge sheet that Simi was linked to Pakistan!

And now, a brief on Simi. It was founded in 1977 by Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, professor of Journalism and Public Relations at the Western Illinois University Macomb, Illinois, but originally from Lucknow. To make “the Holy Koran the governing text of human life, propagation of Islam, and jihad in the cause of Islam” were its founding goals. Javed Anand, a secular icon, has this to say about Simi: “True to its ideological mooring, in the ‘80s, Simi produced eye-catching stickers proclaiming ‘Secularism, NO; Democracy, NO; Nationalism, NO; Polytheism, NO; Only Islam’. These stickers adorned many Muslim homes and shops throughout India. But no one seemed to be unduly perturbed by this dangerous drift of a section of Indian Muslim youth, spreading wings under the loving care of its patron, the JeI (Jamait-e-Islami Hind). It was only in the late ‘90s that the JeI officially snapped the umbilical cord that organically linked it to Simi.” But Javed Anand wrote this not in 1980s, not in 1990s, not even till August 15, 2008, but only on August 16, after Simi was seen as the culprit in Gujarat blasts!

But how did Simi grow to such menacing proportions? The plain answer is: it was receiving open and clandestine political patronage from the seculars. The NDA government first banned Simi in September 2001 and extended the ban in 2003 which continued till September 2005. The UPA government, which came to power in 2004, did not extend the ban when it expired in September 2005, thus helping to revive a disintegrating Simi. This, according to the Wikipedia, was the state of the SIMI after the second ban: “It was unable to function in any manner because all its members were demoralised or had crossed the age of 30 years which automatically dis-entitled them to continue as members of Simi ... and due to lack of offices and as all its accounts were frozen, some of the erstwhile members also had to fight the criminal cases foisted against them by the State.” But why did the UPA not continue the ban? Because Sonia Gandhi and her party opposed the first ban on Simi in 2001. They were not only admirers of Simi, but also its advocates - Salman Khurshid, president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, was the counsel defending Simi in the high court and supreme court against the ban.

See how these secular admirers of Simi defended the terror outfit that was anti-secular, anti-democracy, anti-India according to Javed Anand, when the NDA government first outlawed it in 2001. While speaking against the introduction of Pota in the special parliament session in 2002, Sonia censured the government for banning Simi which had no involvement with terrorist activities! Ambika Soni, her chosen spokesperson, termed the ban as “not in the national interest” and “ill-timed”. Sriprakash Jaiswal, UPCC president in 2001, said the Viswa Hindu Parishad was a greater threat to the nation than Simi”. Later, the government of the very same party had to re-impose the ban in 2006 after its own ruling coalition in Maharashtra found Simi’s involvement in the Mumbai train blasts in 2006. Later the very same gentleman, Jaiswal, as junior minister for home affairs in this government told the Rajya Sabha on April 23, 2007, and the Lok Sabha the previous day, that Simi was linked to LeT and was anti-national and that huge arms and ammunitions were seized from its cadres! But this was after Simi had grown to gigantic proportions and struck India some 10 times between 2004-08, before it struck again in Gujarat on August 26. Yet, even now Sonia has not uttered one word against Simi. Does it mean she admires it still? Or she is so saintly that, like one of the three noble monkeys of Mahatma Gandhi, she sees no evil whether it is Simi or LTTE or Nalini or Afzal - the RSS and its allies being the only exceptions!

(The writer is a commentator on current affairs)

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