The banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which intelligence agencies believe has created the country’s first home-grown terror network, cooperates closely with a radical but legitimate Hyderabad-based Islamic organisation called the Darsgah Jihad-o-Shahadat, going by the confession of Amil Parvez. The police believe Parvez is a top SIMI activist; he was arrested on March 27, along with 13 others.
<b1>The interrogation statement, a copy of which Hindustan Times has procured, states that Darsgah president Shaikh Mahboob Ali had invited him for martial arts training in Hyderabad.
“It is the tip of the iceberg,” said a police official, referring to the student group’s ties with other militant groups. “It indicates that SIMI has managed to build a wide network through front organisations across India.”
But he added that police from various states were still investigating the activities of organisations like Darsgah, and were not yet in a position to provide evidence of their links with the radical student organisation.
When Maulana Naseeruddin, an accused in the murder of former Gujarat minister Haren Pandya, was arrested, Darsgah activists pelted stones and tried to forcibly take away Naseeruddin from the police van.
Darsgah activist Mujahid Saleem Islahi was killed after police opened fire to disburse the mob.
B Prasad Rao, Hyderabad police commissioner said: “We are aware of this organisation. It is possible that some ex-SIMI members are part of it. But SIMI activists are not active at the moment. It would be speculative to comment on Darsgah without evidence.”
When asked to respond to Parvez’s confession, Darsgah president Sheikh Mahboob Ali, said: “We have 10 to 12 centres across India, but we do not keep a record of who trains there. It can be anybody. Our aim is to teach self-defence to Muslim youths.” But when asked explicitly whether Darsgah cooperated with SIMI, he declined comment.
On its website, www.djsindia.org, Darsgah states that it “is an independent organisation. It has no affiliation with any other organisation.” But it also says that those it trains have a “right to join any Muslim group… As a result, they are serving all Muslim groups…” The website also carries a photograph of a young child holding up a placard stating, “The Quran will be the Constitution of India, and I will be the soldier."
In the last 21 years, it has trained and continues to train thousands of youths to defend themselves and to help, protect and defend other Muslim brethren. And since the last 10 years, the organisation has been conducting short-term courses in self-defence for Muslim girls and women in Hyderabad. But what has caught investigators eyes is Darsgah’s statement that they have been conducting special training for selected Muslim youths twice a year in suburban or outlying areas, the website further states.
Parvez also said that two training camps were held in 2007, one each in Madhya Pradesh and Kerala. Those who attended underwent a gruelling regimen that included swimming, trekking, rock climbing and lessons on how to use airguns, pistols and petrol bombs. Safdar and Kamruddin, who supervised the training, told Parvez that the camps were just primary and that the cream among the lot would be sent abroad for further training.
Parvez’s confession also alludes to possible international links. For instance, it says that Palestinian Sheikh Siam, who the police believe is an activist of the 20-year-old radical Hamas, which is in a majority in the Palestinian legislative council, attended a meeting in Aligarh in 1997. Parvez, too, attended this meeting, which was chaired by SIMI’s then president Shahid Badr Falahi, the confession stated.
Parvez’s confession also described in detail how SIMI regrouped after the government banned it in 2001. Parvez credited Safdar Nagori, a fellow activist also arrested on March 27, and a man named Noman Badr with resurrecting SIMI after many of its members went into hiding or quit. On April 17, the Hindustan Times published an interview with Nagori’s father, a retired policeman, who said he was deeply pained by his son’s association with the student group.
“We should not allow the movement to collapse, and should maintain our network by operating clandestinely,” Nagori apparently told Parvez. “We are doing all we can to lift the ban.”