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SIMI activists arrested in Surat

Surat: A total of 123 Islamic activists, many belonging to the banned Student’s Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), have been arrested in the western city of Surat. According to reports they had gathered there for a three-day seminar on ‘minority education’. The detainees include some prominent leaders of the Muslim community who are in no way related to SIMI.

This was the first massive arrest of SIMI cadres after the organization was banned on 27 September taking advantage of the international atmosphere against 'terrorism' after the attacks on World Trade Centre and Pentagon in the US. The Indian Home Minister LK Advani, a known hardliner, and many ultra nationalist leaders had been demanding the organisation's ban for quite some time. Major Muslim organisations in the country decried the ban in categorical term and called the central government’s move politically motivated since there is no hard proof of the organisation's involvement in terrorist activities. Only its slogans and rhetoric have been found objectionable while outfits belonging to the ultra rightist stream now ruling India, like Bajrang Dal, are prima facie guilty of violence against Muslims and Christians. 

The official argument for banning the organization seems laughable. It said that ‘since inception, SIMI has consistently adopted a hard-line militant posture on various issues of concern to the Muslim community. According to its Constitution, SIMI aims to achieve Allah’s pleasure through reconstruction of human life in accordance with the principle given by Allah and His messenger and the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah would guide the organization in all matters.’ If this argument is really the basis for banning any organization then all Muslim organizations in the country will be banned and every Muslim will be termed as 'anti-national'. One of the charges in the official notification banning SIMI is that 'it is working for an international Islamic order.' Every Muslim is and should strive for achieving this fundamental goal. Followers of every religion be it Christianity, Hinduism or even Communism claim to be working for a just international Hindu, Christian, Communist or Muslim order. The Indian constitution doesn’t say that this aim is any ground for banning an organisation. 

Another charge that has been levelled against SIMI is that it has been demonstrating against the burning of the Holy Qur’an all over the country. Instead of arresting the people responsible for the sacrilege the government has tried to nab protesters demanding justice. It could happen only in India under the BJP rule. 

The arrested youths belong to 10 Indian states. The largest number 44 were from Maharashtra followed by Gujarat 25, Madhya Pradesh 13, Karnataka 11, Uttar Pradesh 10, Rajasthan 9, West Bengal 4, Tamil Nadu 4, Bihar 2 and Chattisgarh 1. All of them have been remanded to police custody. 

The police said that, ‘the gathering was well-planned. Details of the conference had been circulated throughout the country.’ According to news reports, the police have found no links of the organization with the recent attacks on Parliament. Though press reports say that documents seized in the conference venue indicate that SIMI had some connections with terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, but these allegations are not considered true by the Muslim community here. These reports are based on seized handbills and pamphlets eulogizing Osama bin Laden, from the conference hall. Surat police commissioner VK Gupta told reporters that, ‘we intend to explore every aspect of this organization, their purpose of hosting the meeting here and their possible links with agencies like the Pakistani military intelligence, ISI, and their future plans.’ On the alleged link between the SIMI and Al-Qaeda, he said that it is not clear if SIMI is connected to the Al-Qaeda.

News reports claim that the police was suspicious when a hall was booked in Surat for a religious purpose by a former SIMI office-bearer, Sajid Ghulam Khwaja Mansoori. The agenda of the meeting or the names of hosts of the conference was not mentioned. Later the organization hosted a national conference under the banner of 'All India Minority Education Board' with a Delhi address. But the Delhi Police found that there was no such organization registered in Okhla. ‘The agenda was handwritten as if it had been prepared in a hurry. It does not happen when a conference on an important issue like minority education is being held. This looked like an attempt to cover up,’ the police commissioner told reporters. 

All the 123 activists have been arrested under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.. According to some reports the SIMI has been operating under the banner of Tahreek Ihya-e-Ummat (TAU) since its ban. There are also reports of seizure of hundreds of membership forms of TAU from the conference venue. 

Meanwhile there are reports of the release of a large number of SIMI cadres arrested in the wake of the ban two months ago. Most of them have been released on bail on furnishing personal bonds. More than 500 SIMI activists were reportedly arrested all over the country following the ban.

There have been contradictory reports regarding SIMI’s involvement in anti-national activities. Though SIMI was alleged to be involved in last year's Kanpur communal riots but the denial of the Inspector General of Police of its involvement in the riots should have cleared the air. On its alleged relations with Kashmiri militant organizations, the government has not presented any case yet. On the other hand senior police officials in the troubled state have said that there is no proof of SIMI's relations with any militant organization in the Kashmir Valley.
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