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Searching for an scapegoat
By P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow

Despite the revelations made on the involvement of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in the divisive activities and disturbance in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere in the country, a ban on the organization is not on the cards. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the various organizations of the Sangh Parivar have been clamouring for the ban on the SIMI for some time on the ground that its activities had become a serious threat to peace in U.P. The state BJP President, Mr. Kalraj Misra, was among the votaries to a ban on the outfit. The BJP and its frontal organizations had adopted resolutions a number of times demanding a ban on the organization.

The U. P. Chief Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh, has, however, not shown any inclination to impose a ban on the outfit. When the perturbed officials briefed Mr. Singh on the latest revelations made by some arrested SIMI activists about their nexus with the Kashmir militant outfits, he simply told them to strengthen the dossier on SIMI. Later talking to the newspersons in Aligarh, the Chief Minister clarified that he was not in favour of a ban on the outfit but believed in firmly dealing with the anti-national elements. He felt that the ban would not be a solution. Moreover, he pointed that the state government was not empowered to impose a ban on any organization since that power rested in the central government. The newly appointed Director General of Police, Mr. R.K. Pandit, went a step further and felt that the SIMI “as such cannot be branded as anti-national“. Mr. Pandit remarked that anti-national elements might have sneaked into the organization. But he asserted that they would not be spared.

The Delhi police arrested Mumtaz, a Hizbul Mujahideen, on July 30. On his interrogation, Mumtaz revealed the names of Mohammad Zuber and Wasif as his two accomplices who were later arrested from the Chamanganj area of Kanpur along with a cache of sophisticated arms and ammunitions. Zuber and Wasif admitted before the police that they were SIMI activists operating at the behest of Kashmir militant outfits like Mujahideen, Jaish-e Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. They revealed that they used to regularly meet Mumtaz, who was wanted in the bomb blast in the Rajdhani Express in Jaipur on December 6, 1993. In fact, both Mumtaz and Zuber had been to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir last year on a 40-day training in arms and ammunition.

On sustained questioning, Zuber and Wasif admitted that they were involved in the bomb blasts in Kanpur, Agra and Faizabad on the Independence Day last year. They were also behind the Kanpur riots in March this year and the murder of the additional district magistrate (Finance), Mr. C.P. Pathak there. They told the police that they had plans to indulge in large-scale bomb blasts in public places and foment communal tension in U.P. during the Independence Day celebrations this year to avenge the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and the killing of innocent Muslims in the Kashmir Valley. Zuber and Wasif had also divulged the names of some of their accomplices and the police are trying to track them.

The Rajnath Singh government is apparently against a ban on SIMI due to various reasons. The Chief Minister apprehends that a ban on the organization will alienate the minority community from the BJP, that too in the wake of Assembly elections in the state. Moreover Mr. Singh considers that a ban on the organization will not hold water in the court of law. Though the then central government had banned the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992, the court had held the decision invalid. Besides, the BJP knows it well that most of its ruling alliance partners in U.P. as well as at the centre may not approve of a ban on SIMI. Moreover he knew that the central government did not act on the recommendations of a ban on SIMI made by his predecessor, Mr. Ram Prakash Gupta.

Most of the opposition parties are either silent or against a ban on SIMI in view of their vote base among the minorities. Incidentally, the President of the U.P. unit of the Congress, Mr. Sriprakash Jaiswal, had expressed his opposition to a ban on the organization though his party’s government in Madhya Pradesh had recommended the step to the Central government! In fact, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party–led government in Maharashtra had also come across with the anti-national activities of SIMI.

In another development, however, some clerics in Kanpur have demanded a ban on SIMI. They included Maulana Manzoor Ahmed Mazahari and Qari Abdus Sami. The Kanpur unit of Jamiat Ulema had also come in favour of a ban on the organization. Meanwhile, the All India Secretary of SIMI, Waqarul Hasan, has denied that the two arrested in Kanpur have links with his organization. He alleged that the two arrested had been branded as SIMI activists to malign his organization.

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