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SIMI's 'success' is a result of our secular polity
M R Venkatesh
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September 17, 2008

'In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected.'  -- Tsun Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher

The Students Islamic Movement of India, Wikipedia informs us, was formed in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh [Images], in April 1977. The stated mission of SIMI [Images] -- the 'liberation of India' from Western materialistic cultural influence and to convert it into an Islamic society -- makes it an enemy of the State of India.

Wikipedia further points out that 'fears exist in government circles that SIMI has been penetrated by al Qaeda. It goes on to add that it is suspected that SIMI after being banned by the Government of India is now also operating under a different name of Indian Majahideen, an outfit that has taken responsibility for the successive blasts in India over the past several months.' Yet SIMI remains virtually un-debated by the polity and the intelligentsia of the country. 

Contrary to the popular belief that SIMI is run by uneducated, misdirected and poor Muslim youth, readers may be surprised at the fact that SIMI's founding president, Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, is a professor of journalism and public relations at the Western Illinois University. And with the spate of terror mails sent by hacking Wi-Fi connections, it seems that SIMI is even to this day run by the educated, privileged and the moneyed.

Despite such repeated terror attempts, SIMI is largely an unknown commodity in India, especially to the common man. What are its objectives? What are its guiding philosophies? How does it operate and what makes it the centrifugal force of terrorism in India? Crucially, what makes it devastating despite a ban by the central government?

The answers to all these questions are not difficult and need not be a subject matter of speculation as these are in the public domain. Yet, some preliminary understanding of SIMI provides the text to the polity that intellectually facilitates its existence, sustains its growth and shields it from the reach of law, all of which collectively make SIMI a potent force in the Indian context.

SIMI -- a fact file

Basic research about SIMI reveals something stunning as well as chilling. SIMI believes in leading human life on the basis of the Quran as well as propagation of Islam in India. While there is nothing wrong about these two objectives, as these are guaranteed by the Constitution, the third -- jihad for the cause of Islam -- makes it a potent terrorist organisation.

SIMI does not believe in a nation-state. To amplify further, SIMI's ultimate aim is to have an Islamic caliphate with an Islamic India an integral part of such an arrangement. And to achieve this, SIMI sees secular, democratic modern India as a hurdle. Yet it is the secular cabal that acts as a cheerleader for SIMI!

Consequently, it does not believe in the concept of Indian nation, culture and values. And to achieve its self-professed goal, SIMI seeks to wage a low-intensity war against the Government of India so as to liquidate the very concept of India. In this attempt, SIMI seeks to utilise the youth in the propagation of Islam and also to mobilise support for jihad and establish a Shariat-based Islamic rule in India through Islami Inqilab.

In effect, whatever it may be christened or defined by the secular polity in India, SIMI is basically a fundamentalist organisation that not only rejects other beliefs, ideals, as well as other 'anti-Islamic cultures', it in fact seeks to systematically eliminate them. Ideologically, SIMI maintains that the concepts of secularism, democracy and nationalism, keystones of the Indian Constitution, are antithetical to Islam.

Parallel to its rejection of secularism, democracy and nationalism is its oft-repeated objective of restoration of the 'caliphate', emphasis on ummah and the need for jihad to establish the supremacy of Islam. Further, it reveres Osama bin Laden while it does not believe that Jammu and Kashmir [Images] to be an integral part of India.

SIMI is also reported to get generous financial assistance from the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Riyadh, the International Islamic Federation of Students' Organisations in Kuwait, and of course the dreaded ISI of Pakistan. Further, SIMI gets operational and training assistance from the Jamaat-e-Islam units in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, and the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al Islami Bangladesh.

And in the process, SIMI is at war with India. And in this war SIMI gets all the funding, training as well as strategic help from various countries. If Osama provides it ideological inspiration, Pakistan and others provide it strategic, financial and military support, overtly or covertly.

But what about support within India?

While it may be easier to blame others, especially in the neighbourhood, the fact of the matter is that the success of SIMI lies exclusively within India. It is patently unjust to blame an entire community. Quite the contrary, the rise and success of SIMI is a direct product of our secular polity and the manner in which successive governments have handled this convoluted yet crucial issue.

It may be recalled that SIMI was first banned -- the first and preliminary steps at containing it -- by the then National Democratic Alliance government on September 27, 2001, immediately following the terror attacks in the US on September 11, 2001. This ban remained till September 27, 2003. In this interregnum, several prosecutions were launched against its members under the provisions of the now repealed Prevention Of Terrorism [Images] Act.

The second ban, in effect the extension of the first, was between September 27, 2003 and September 27, 2005. The government of India had effected a third ban on SIMI from February 8, 2006. Therefore SIMI was in effect legally in existence between September 28, 2005, and February 7, 2006.

The third ban on SIMI was lifted by Delhi [Images] high court tribunal on August 5, 2008, which has since been stayed by the Supreme Court. 'Material given by the home ministry is insufficient, so ban cannot be continued,' Justice Geeta Mittal, a sitting Delhi high court judge, had said while lifting the ban. Obviously, the hydraulic power of the secular polity, with a proven soft corner to SIMI, had its desired effect on our bureaucracy.

But how did secular India react to all these acts of SIMI? Consider this:

Mulayam Singh Yadav [Images] and Lalu Prasad Yadav [Images] said the ban on SIMI was wrong in the first place.

Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said the order was "no setback" to the government and added, "Wherever terrorist attacks have taken place in the recent past -- Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat -- it is the state governments that are investigating the matter. It is their responsibility to submit the evidence against SIMI to the central government," implying that it was the state government that needs to act against SIMI, not the central government.

Salman Khurshid, president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress committee, was the counsel defending SIMI in the high court and in the Supreme Court against the ban.

Others, including the Communists, have ensured that their responses are either muted or guarded, lest they be branded as communalists by others in the polity.

With such wonderful local support, why them blame others including the ISI? The issue is not of the terrorists and their activity. Rather it is something quite serious that points out to the serious drift in our national polity and our skewed concept of secularism.

It may be noted that while our secular polity was explicitly exonerating SIMI, a study by the Institute of Conflict Management headed by K P S Gill, had clearly listed over 100 terror incidents from 2000 to 2008 which involves SIMI. Yet, such blatant and patent support to SIMI by our polity is inexplicable.

Substantiating the finding of this institute, even a spokesperson of the Indian government told the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal held in New Delhi that contrary to notions that SIMI's activities declined following its ban, the organisation "had stepped up its subversive activities and was involved in almost all major explosions, communal violence and circulation of inflammatory material across the country." And it is this group that the secular polity virtually exonerates without any remorse!

Let us not make any mistake -- we are amidst a war, a war with a faceless enemy. But it is not the only advantage that our enemy has. As explained above, the approach of our polity rationalises, legalises and sanctifies terrorism in India. It is this attitude of the secular polity makes the faceless enemy that much potent. It is time that we the ordinary people realised this simple fact.   

As the Chinese philosopher said centuries ago, war is for peace. Unfortunately a country that has Ashoka (who renounced war and became a pacifist) as its model and hence does not even cognise the fact that it is amidst a war runs the risk of being a failure as a State and faces the prospect of disintegration.

It is time that we need to wage a war, both against such terrorists and those who are apologists for such terrorists. In the interregnum, of course, politicians from the safe haven of Z-plus category security can continue to pontificate. Whether we will be alive to hear them is a different matter.

The author is a Chennai-based chartered accountant. He can be contacted at

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