The Students Islamist Movement in India (SIMI) has once again come to the public attention in the aftermath of the arrest of its former all-India President Sainudeen Sainalabudeen from Kochi airport on June 25, 2011. Sainudeen Sainalabudeen has a number of cases pending against him. He is suspected to have developed connections with the international jihadi groups during his stay in Dubai. Sainalabudeen was arrested in Kochi as he flew in from Dubai en route to Hyderabad.
Sainalabudeen’s arrest is being considered as a major step in the investigation on SIMI’s activities. Earlier, the Madhya Pradesh (MP) anti-terrorist squad (ATS) arrested ten SIMI activists from Khandwa on June 13, 2011, who were allegedly planning terror strikes. The ATS seized four pistols and 12 live cartridges as well as 24 CDs from the spot. In addition, the crime branch of Gujarat had arrested a suspected SIMI activist, Danish Riyaz, a resident of Jharkhand, on June 21, 2011. Riyaz was accused of providing logistic support and shelter to the masterminds of the Ahmedabad serial blasts. According to police sources, Riyaz provided shelter to the Indian Mujahideen (IM) militants, Abdus Subhan alias Taqueer, Abdul Raziq and Mujib Shaikh, when they were on the run after the Ahmedabad blasts. In another crack down on the SIMI, the Madhya Pradesh ATS arrested eight suspected activists of the IM and SIMI on June 5, 2011, while they were travelling from Jabalpur to Bhopal in a train. According to ATS sources, the arrested IM and SIMI activists are accused in the July 26, 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts. One of those arrested Mujib Sheikh, a kingpin of the IM, is considered to be an important lead to unlock the whereabouts of Abdus Subhan Qureshi alias Taqueer, the mastermind of the Ahmedabad serial blasts.
Two major incidents led to this series of arrests of SIMI activists. The first was the killing of an ATS constable by SIMI activists on June 3, 2011. The SIMI activist, Zakir Hussain, who was arrested by the MP ATS in this regard, is also accused of killing another ATS constable in 2010. The second incident was a threat alert issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, following an intelligence report that SIMI cadres are trying to regroup. The alert by the MHA followed a hunt for some 80 SIMI cadres belonging to different districts of Uttar Pradesh after it became known that they have been missing from their native places since the first time SIMI was proscribed on September 27, 2001. There have been many such reports pertaining to the regrouping of the SIMI and its attempts to build up connections with other like-minded groups in India. Some of them had even sneaked out of India and established connections with like-minded groups outside India.
SIMI as an organisation was proscribed in 2001 by the Indian Government on charges of sedition, creating hatred, engineering communal violence, etc. It was suspected to be involved in the Sabarmati Express blast in August 2000, and in the serial blast in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, on February 14, 1998. SIMI, however, has its own interpretation of the ban. In its view, the ban was imposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, since the SIMI’s guiding principles were against the Hindutva ideology. But this view has been proved to be incorrect give that the SIMI’s proscription continued even under the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The question remains as to what kind of security threat is posed by the SIMI? It has been observed that despite many charges against the organisation not a single charge has been proved against SIMI in all these years.
SIMI as an organisation was established in the year 1977 as a student’s wing of the Jammat-e-Hind (JIH). It believed in Maulana Mawdudi’s ideas that the capture of political power is the main point of the struggle in the Islamic Mission. According to SIMI, ‘nationalism’ is un-Islamic in nature. It does not believe in state boundaries and thinks that Muslims are meant to be part of one nation, Qaum, Millat. SIMI has no hesitation about waging a violent Jihad for the establishment of a khalifat. Hence its slogan: Allah is our Lord, Mohammad (peace be upon him) is our Commander, The Qur’an is our Constitution. SIMI believes in militant activities for the establishment of what it calls a Khalifat - Islamic state.
Because of its radical views and because of its suspected role in various serial bomb blasts, SIMI was first banned on September 27, 2001 for two years under the provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA), the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. The second ban of SIMI was imposed on September 27, 2003 and continued until September 27, 2005. SIMI was banned for a third time on February 8, 2006 when a two-year ban was imposed on it. Although in August 2008, a special tribunal of the Delhi High Court lifted the ban, the ban was subsequently reinstated by the Supreme Court of India on August 6, 2008. The latest ban on the organisation is valid till February 7, 2012.
At present, SIMI is believed to have split into two factions - the hardliners and the moderates. The hardliners are led by Safdar Nagori, an ex-general secretary of SIMI. And the moderate faction is led by Shahid Badar Falah. The hardliner faction led by Nagori is believed to have merged with the Indian Mujahideen and is allegedly planning terror strikes in various parts of India. Safdar Nagori, after his arrest, confessed that women cadres of the organisation, especially the wives of the arrested cadres, are taking charge of the group’s activities. Citing an intelligence report, the Gujarat state intelligence bureau said that, “there is a group of women SIMI activists in Surat and Ahmedabad. They could be planning more blasts in Surat, Ratlam and Vadodara. Surveillance is on, nothing more can be said at this juncture.” According to a recent report, the SIMI is also planning to launch a terror strike on the judges and advocates associated with the Ayodhya title suit. In this regard the MP ATS Inspector General Vipin Maheshwari said that, “The arrested SIMI and IM activists had conducted a recce of the high court building in Lucknow and that of the judges and advocates - especially those representing Hindus and associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute cases.”
These recent activities of SIMI, and particularly that of its hard line faction, as well as its suspected links with groups like the Popular Front of India and the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and even the Indian Mujahideen clearly suggest that the organisation is regrouping to undertake further terrorist attacks in different parts of India. And although, as SIMI claims, not a single charge against it has been proved, the organisation does not cease to be an internal security threat.