Jobs @ MG
SIMI ban fits into BJP plan
By P.M. Damodaran
|Lucknow: After the ban imposed by the
Central Government on Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) attracted
widespread condemnation from most of the opposition parties and the Muslim
organisations and clerics, the scene is now being shifted to the tribunal
which has to approve it if the decision is challenged. Doubts are being
expressed whether the ban decision will stand the legal test in the
tribunal, as the specific charges levelled by the Centre to take the
action appear to be full of loopholes.
The Government will have to set up a tribunal to review the ban under the
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and the Union Home Ministry will
have to prove before it that the ban was the only option left or available
to check the anti-national activities of the organisation. If the
tribunal, which will have judicial members, finds the evidence
insufficient to ban the outfit, it will be lifted.
There are doubts as to whether the ban was preceded by serious government
efforts to check the activities of SIMI. Though the government claimed
that it was aware of the activities of the outfit earlier, it had failed
to initiate action to check them. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr.
Rajnath Singh, had on record stated several times that he was against the
ban on SIMI as the present laws were enough to check its activities.
Several charges levelled by the Union Home Ministry officials and the
central government to ban SIMI do not appear to stand the test of scrutiny
before the tribunal. The gazette notification banning the outfit had
charged it with "working for an international Islamic order". Is
it a crime that demanded the ban of the outfit? The religious freedom is
enshrined in the Constitution and any religion can engage in proper
propaganda. Whether the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was not holding
international conferences in and outside India? Then the VHP should have
been bracketed with SIMI while taking the ban decision.
The government claims that it has evidence in possession to prove that
SIMI was spreading intolerance and hatred towards other religious groups.
But if the government applied the same yardstick in banning SIMI on other
religious groups, the ban on the outfit should have been preceded by
similar actions on the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Recently a senior Union
Home Ministry official had accepted that his ministry had evidence showing
the unlawful activities of the Bajrang Dal in invoking communal
incitement! There are also reports that the Bajrang Dal cadres had
received arms training in Lucknow and other places.
Two charges made against the president of SIMI, Shahid Badr, were that he
had lionised Osama bin Laden, who was wanted in connection with the
attacks on the United States on 11 September, and his opposition to the
Indian government's support to the US. The second charge of condemnation
of India's support to the US is frivolous and it will not constitute a
cognizable offence. If the opposition to the government decision on any
issue is considered as an offence, then the democracy itself is in peril.
It was not the first time that the SIMI chief had lionised Osama when he
did it last month at a meeting in Bahraich. Badr had only repeated what
the SIMI activists had been saying about Osama. In fact, a poem was
published in its magazine last year eulogising the Saudi rebel. The SIMI
had only reproduced the poem recently and widely distributed it among its
cadres. There is a pertinent question as to why the government had failed
to take note of the SIMI action then. The government had been claiming for
quite some time that Osama had been helping the terrorist outfits,
particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, to wage proxy war against India. Has
the government woken up only when Osama had attacked the US to ban SIMI?
The Home Ministry officials had spoken of the links the SIMI activists had
established with some Pan-Islamic organisations. It was alleged that the
chief of Palestinian organisation (Hamas) had met the SIMI leaders a few
times in India. If that was true, the government itself was to be blamed
for this since it had given the visa for Hamas chief to visit India.
Moreover, contact with militant outfits may not, per se, become an
offence. The government itself had held talks with the leaders of militant
organisations in India (North East, Jammu and Kashmir) as well as outside
(Amsterdam)! The SIMI is also being 'charged" for protesting against
the alleged burning of Koran in Delhi in March this year. Is it an
unlawful activity? Not only SIMI, but many Muslim organisations, clerics
and public men and women had protested against and condemned the incident.
In fact the government should have acted on such a sensitive issue instead
of blaming SIMI for protesting against the burning of the holy book.
The Muslim leaders and clerics have not given blanket support to some of
the activities of the SIMI cadres. The convener of the Babri Masjid Action
Committee, Mr. Zafaryab Jilani, said that barring the statement of the
SIMI chief in Bahraich praising Osama, which he condemned, he did not find
any activity of the outfit which might be described as subversive or
anti-national (to attract the ban). The President of the All India Muslim
Forum, Mr Nehalludin, admitted that SIMI had at times indulged in
provocative acts. But what about the activities of the VHP and the Bajrang
Dal, he asked.
This discriminatory ban on SIMI ignoring the similar charges against other
outfits like the Bajrang Dal and the VHP had come in for severe
condemnation from the opposition parties and the Muslim organisations and
clerics. The opposition parties and the Muslim clerics have demanded a ban
on these organisations also. They point out that the influence of SIMI is
considerably limited compared to the clout of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal
to indulge in subversive activities. Thus they found ulterior motives in
the ban on SIMI only.
The timing of the ban is also significant since it comes when Uttar
Pradesh, the biggest state in the country, is in the election mode. The
opposition parties and the clerics link the ban on SIMI with the efforts
of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to divide the society on communal
lines and get the support of the majority community in the Assembly
elections, to be held within the next five months. They said that this
explained the hurry with which the government had imposed a ban SIMI.
The BJP is already worried over the alienation of the upper castes from
the party in U.P. Coupled with this is the suspicion over the efficacy of
the policy of the Chief Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh in giving reservation
for the most backward classes within the OBC quota to attract the former
to the party. The Government is, however, confident that the tribunal will
confirm the ban on SIMI. The Union Minister, Mr. Promod Mahajan, asserts
that the ban will stand the legal test "in view of the solid evidence
in the possession of the government". q