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SIMI ban an election issue in UP
By PM Damodaran, Lucknow

Serious differences have cropped up between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leadership and the state government in Uttar Pradesh over the ban on the Student Islamic Movement in India (SIMI). In late April while the state BJP president, Mr. Kalraj Mishra, sought an immediate ban on the SIMI, the Chief Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh, did not favour such a move.

Mr. Mishra had reiterated his demand for the ban on the militant outfit and felt that any delay would harm the interest of the country. The state BJP chief alleged that SIMI's activities were a serious threat in U.P. and held the outfit responsible for the communal riots in Kanpur in February this year. He said that there were enough evidence to show the involvement of the SIMI activists in creating disturbances in the state. To buttress his claim for action against the organization, Mr. Mishra pointed out that even the Congress-ruled states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh had come across with the SIMI's anti-national activities.

In fact he was not alone in the ruling BJP to demand a ban on the organization. The firebrand Bajrang Dal leader and the BJP MP from Faizabad, Mr. Vinay Katiyar and the state party spokesman, Mr. Hriday Narain Dixit, have come out with statements demanding the immediate ban on the outfit. Besides, the Sangh Parivar outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had already expressed its apprehension on the activities of SIMI, which it alleged was colluding with the ISI and Jaish-e-Mohammad to demolish the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The state unit of the Shiv Sena has also strongly favoured a ban on SIMI. The Sena had even threatened the BJP that it would snap its ties with the ruling party if its government in U.P. failed to take steps to ban the organization.

On the other hand, the Chief Minister, Mr. Singh is not convinced on the need for a ban on the organization. Hardly within two days after Mr. Mishra reiterated his demand for a ban on SIMI, Mr. Singh made it clear that the state government had no plan to do so. Mr. Singh's statement had come during his interaction with the mediapersons on the occasion of his completion of six months as chief minister on April 28. Though he did not go into the details, Mr. Singh said that he felt that no purpose would be served by banning SIMI. But the Chief Minister was categorical in stating that he had no differences on the matter with the leaders of his party though Mr. Singh could not comment on the statements made by Mr. Mishra, Mr. Katiyar and Mr. Dixit.

In fact the issue was raised by the mediapersons during the press conference of the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee in Lucknow last month. But Mr. Vajpayee just maintained that the central government would consider the ban on SIMI if a proposal to this effect was made by the state government. The Director General of Police, Mr.M. C. Dwivedi contended that the matter had to be decided by the central government. But his statement, by and large, gave the impression that like the Chief Minister, he did not favour a ban on SIMI. Yet his comments had attracted condemnation from some senior leaders of the BJP.

There is a difference in perception between the leaders of the Sangh Parivar and the government, particularly the Chief Minister, on the proposal on the ban on SIMI. The party leaders want to exploit the ban politically by connecting the activities of SIMI with the militant organizations like Jaish-e-Mohammad, which the Sangh leaders allege, was planning to strike at the disputed Ram Temple structure in Ayodhya. (Three ultras belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad were killed in an encounter with the police in the trans-Gomti area in Lucknow last month when they were reportedly proceeding to Ayodhya to strike at the structure).

The government is against a ban on SIMI due to two reasons. First the Chief Minister and others consider that the ban may alienate the minority community from the BJP. But more than that, they are not so sure whether a ban on SIMI will hold water in the court of law. They point out that the court had struck the ban on the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh after the government had banned the organization following the demolition of the Babri Mosque structure in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. On the other hand, the government is in favour of tightening the noose around the SIMI leaders to nullify their activities. So it considers that the best course will be to prepare cases against the leaders of the organization and get arrest warrants against them.

Significantly the opposition parties have not come out with a clear stand on the ban issue. They apparently apprehend that a demand on the ban on the organization may alienate the minority community from them. Moreover, they are not sure about the role of the SIMI leaders in the communal riots in the state, particularly in Kanpur in February.

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