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How SIMI evolved from moderate students’ organisation to banned militant group

india Updated: Oct 31, 2016 18:27 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
SIMI activists

Eight suspected SIMI activists escaped on Monday after killing a guard in Bhopal central jail.(HT Photo)

In 1977, the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind, a moderate religious and social organisation of Muslims, decided to bring together its strong network of members and scholars across India. It called the new group Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Based in Uttar Pradesh, the group was the brain child of Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, a media studies professor at the Western Illinois University Macomb, the United States. Siddiqui was the group’s founding president.

SIMI’s founding principles stated that the Koran was its constitution, that jihad, or a holy struggle to protect Islam, was its path and martyrdom its desire.

In 1981, SIMI ended its alliance with the Jamaat over differences in their response to the Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat’s visit to India. SIMI supporters greeted him with black flags in New Delhi, arguing that Arafat as a western puppet.

The group attracted little attention until 2002, when the then BJP-led government banned it, blaming it for inciting religious hatred and riots.

Many SIMI activists were detained and others went underground after the ban, including Shahid Badar Falah, its national president and Safdar Nagori, the general secretary. They were later arrested on charges of inciting riots and violence.

Security officials say many of SIMI’s young activists were pushed into the folds of militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir and crossed over to Pakistan for training in camps run by militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Since then it has been blamed by Indian police for several bomb attacks in India, including explosions on commuter trains in Mumbai in 2006 that killed 187 people. The group also is being investigated for a string of bombings in Gujarat which killed 45 people in 2008.

The same year in September more than 20 people were killed in blasts in New Delhi that were also blamed on the proscribed group.

In 2008, SIMI challenged in court the ban on its activities. The government has extended the ban three times since 2002 and higher courts have upheld the proscription.

The appeal against the ban remains in the Supreme Court.

(With inputs from agencies)

Also read | Eight suspected SIMI men killed after escaping from Bhopal jail: Reports