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SIMI again in the dock
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Thirteen activists of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were arrested by Mumbai Police in Kurla on 10 May. The arrested activists included its zonal president of Maharashtra Irshad Khan also.

The police has said that the arrest was in connection with the communal trouble that erupted in a number of cities in Maharashtra including Pune and Aurangabad in the wake of reports of burning of the Holy Qur'an in Delhi.

The 14 March incident had generated communal tension in Maharashtra and the government had subsequently told the state assembly that it had evidence to prove SIMI's role in it. Chagan Bhujbal the state home minister and deputy chief minister of the state had advocated banning the SIMI in the wake of such incidents in the state. But no action was taken against the organization at that time. Communal tension went beyond control in the wake of the sacrilege in the national capital and rioting was reported from a number of places in Maharashtra including Aurangabad, Pune and Beed.

Bhujbal said in Mumbai after the arrest of the SIMI activists that these activists were found in possession of choppers and other life threatening weapons when they swooped on their office premises in Suburban Kurla and Vikhroli. Bhujbal added the Mahrarashtra government aided by the UP government had already urged the centre to ban the organization, found fanning the communal tension.

SIMI that celebrated its silver jubilee has been in the eye of a storm since last more than one year. It has also been getting negative publicity in the media over issues that never existed. It was accused by the BJP government of Uttar Pradesh for fanning communal tension in the state and was accused of starting Kanpur riots that finally culminated in the barbarous killing of around thirty Muslims in the city. The riots could be controlled only after the PAC was withdrawn by the Rajnath government of UP after severe pressure from all social and political organizations. Though the state unit of the BJP has been claiming that it was the SIMI that threw the first stone and so started the riots in this communally sensitive city the state DIG of police made it clear that the SIMI was in no way involved in the riots. In the end seven PAC personnel were thrown out of services for rioting in the city thus clearing the accusation.

Chagal Bhujbal in Mumbai has also been claiming all along in the same fashion as the UP BJP that the SIMI was behind riots in Pune, Aurangabad and other cities in the state in the wake of sacrilege in the Capital. He has also been advocating banning the SIMI in the state and his government recently concluded an agreement with Uttar Pradesh government to control the terrorism.

The arrest of the SIMI activists including its president has created a storm in the metropolis. A number of rallies and sit-ins have been organized by the SIMI and other sympathizers of the organizations in the city. Kurla where the zonal office of the organization is located and where from the SIMI state president along with his five other members was arrested has seen a large number of rallies and programmes against the arrest of its SIMI activists. An impressive meeting was organized at Haj House in Mumbai last week. As the sources say the common people of the area have come out in the open to agitate against the arrests.

Sources in the SIMI negate the allegations levelled against the organizations in the wake of arrest in Mumbai. Safdar Nagori, SIMI general secretary told this correspondent that there is no credence in the allegations. He said that it were not the SIMI activists alone who were arrested around 3 am in the dark of night, several hundred other people were also arrested by the police in Kurla area on the same night where the SIMI office is located, but those people were released later from the police station.

When asked about the deadly arms that police claims to have discovered from their office, Nagori says that it were knives meant for sacrifice of the animals during the Idul Adha (Baqrid). 'Every organization in Mumbai has a system to arrange for sacrifice of animals during Baqrid. The hide of the animal sacrificed is given to the organization that manages sacrifice. So these knives could be found in any organization's office' he adds.

In the meantime all the six SIMI activists arrested by the police have been released on bail. Its state president has also been released on bail.

When asked about Chagan Bhujbal's demand to ban the SIMI Nagori says that those organizations who are fanning communal tension in the country should be banned. Bhujbal himself was accused to have relations with the ISI, but only allegations do not prove anything, Nagori adds. He further says that it seems that Bhujbal has not been able to change his psyche though he has changed parties. Bhujbal was in Shiv Sena before joining Congress and then Nationalist Congress Party.

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