SIMI leader denies militant ideology
Sreenivasan Jain, Friday, July 15, 2006 (Mumbai): The Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has denied any involvement of the group in the serial blasts.
SIMI's name or at least the involvement of some of its members is being looked at in the investigations.
What exactly is SIMI, what are its roots, its ideology and who is running its operations after it was banned?
Syed Khan wears many hats. He is a scrap trader and heads a group that works with young Muslims which provides a forum to discuss issues of religion.
But till 10 years ago he was a close witness to the turbulent history of SIMI - the Muslim youth organisation banned in 2001 on suspicion of terror links.
It is that turn in SIMI's identity; set up in 1979, Syed says that led him to break away from the group.
Until the late 80s, SIMI grew in size as an active orthodox yet lawful platform for young Muslims and Syed rose to become its Bombay head.
"We got a president C A M Basheer from Kerala, a state which was untouched by the violence in the North. That man changed the organistation, he was militant based one and that was where I opposed them and we said that this cannot go on in SIMI," said Khan.
Sensing a new and disturbing agenda, Syed tried to create a breakaway SIMI in the early 90s that would return to a nationalist identity, but that never took off.
A few years later SIMI was banned and many of its leaders were arrested or others like CAM Basheer left India.
But the Gujarat riots became a new catalyst for those like Basheer to become active.
Police say he has a key role in the 2003 Gateway blasts.
Saqib Nachan, Basheer's ex-SIMI colleague and from Mumbai has been charged with in the Vile Parle and Mulund blasts of 2002 and is today in jail.
This, Syed says, is the danger of the ban that even today it allows the more militant elements of SIMI to recruit for the wrong reasons.
The Gujarat riots disturbed the Muslim youth immensely. If any Muslim youth is shown a CD of the Gujarat riots then automatically a feeling of revenge creeps in his mind, then you need to stop anti-Muslim riots.
Under strict vigil
Meanwhile, police is keeping a strict vigil on SIMI, who have a strong base along Bangladesh border in Malda district.
Policemen in plainclothes have been deployed in areas where SIMI members were active. Intelligence network was also geared up to closely monitor their movement, said Superintendent of Police, Malda, Dilip Mandal.
Besides, the police was keeping contact with the BSF to ensure that none could cross the border from either side.
Mandal said he was yet to receive any instruction from the authorities to crackdown on SIMI activists but added that all police stations of the district were alerted.
He further added that hotels, lodges and passengers travelling by train or buses were also being checked.
Mandal said that the state police, railway police, BSF and other security forces and intelligence agencies were working together to ensure safety, security and normal life in the bordering district. (With PTI inputs)