Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)
The Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), proscribed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, is an Islamist fundamentalist organization, which advocates the ‘liberation of India’ by converting it to an Islamic land. The SIMI, an organisation of young extremist students has declared Jihad against India, the aim of which is to establish Dar-ul-Islam (land of Islam) by either forcefully converting everyone to Islam or by violence.
The SIMI was formed at Aligarh in the State of Uttar Pradesh on April 25, 1977. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at the Western Illinois University Macomb, Illinois, was the founding President of the outfit. It originally emerged as a student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH). The alliance, however, lasted only till 1981, when SIMI activists protested against Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat's visit to India, and greeted him with black flags in New Delhi. Young SIMI activists identified Arafat as a western puppet, while the senior JIH leaders saw Arafat as a champion of the cause of Palestine. JIH decided to abandon SIMI and floated a new student wing, the Students Islamic Organization (SIO).
Objectives and Ideology
SIMI also attempts to utilize the youth in the propagation of Islam and also to mobilize support for Jihad and establish a Shariat-based Islamic rule through "Islami Inqulab". As the organization does not believe in a nation-state, it does not believe in the Indian Constitution or the secular order. SIMI also regards idol worship as a sin and considers it to be a holy duty to terminate idol worship.
SIMI is widely believed to be against Hinduism, western beliefs and ideals, as well as other ‘anti-Islamic cultures’. Among its various objectives, the SIMI aims to counter what it believes is the increasing moral degeneration, sexual anarchy in the Indian society as also the ‘insensitiveness’ of a ‘decadent’ west. 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 'khilafat', emphasis on 'ummah' (Muslim brotherhood), and the need for a Jehad to establish the supremacy of Islam.
The outfit is known to have adopted an extremist and militant posture on various issues of concern to the Muslim community.
According to the SIMI, Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is an outstanding example of a true Mujahid, who has undertaken Jihad on behalf of the 'ummah'.
SIMI's interpretation of Islam is influenced to a great extent by the writings of Syed Abul A'ala Maududi, founder of the Jamaat-e Islami.
According to the scholar Yoginder Sikand, Nationalism, for SIMI, is seen as a false idol, and one devised by the non-Muslim 'enemies of the faith' to divide the Muslims and thereby weaken them. All non-Muslims are branded by the SIMI as 'kafirs', and no distinction is made among them. Because the 'enemies of God' are expected to show stiff resistance to Islam, violent Jihad is to be waged.
Dr Shahid Badar Falah functioned as the national president and Safdar Nagori as the general secretary till the organization was proscribed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. The Delhi Police arrested Falah on September 28, 2001, from its office in the Zakir Nagar area of Delhi and he has subsequently been charged with sedition and inciting communal disharmony in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
Similarly, on March 27, 2008, SIMI general secretary Safdar Nagori, absconding since September 27, 2001, was arrested along with 12 other cadres of the outfit from Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Among the arrested was Safdar's brother Kamruddin Nagori. Safdar Nagori has been named in a First Information Report (FIR) under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities Act, registered at the New Friends Colony Police station in South Delhi. He is alleged to have established links with the operatives of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, and other Islamist fundamentalist leaders in a bid to revive SIMI cadres under the umbrella of a different outfit.
Mohammad Aamir, the chief of SIMI's Uttar Pradesh (UP) State unit and the prime accused in the Kanpur riots of March 16, surrendered before a metropolitan magistrate on April 25, 2006.
Another top SIMI leader Abul Bashar Qasmi, who had taken over the control of the outfit after Safdar Nagori's arrest, was arrested on August 16, 2008 from a village in Azamgarh in UP by a joint team of the UP and Gujarat Police. Qasmi allegedly was the mastermind behind the July 26, 2008 Ahmedabad (Gujarat) serial bomb blasts,
Linkages and Areas of Operation
SIMI reportedly secures generous financial assistance from the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Riyadh, and also maintains close links with the International Islamic Federation of Students' Organizations (IIFSO) in Kuwait. It also receives generous funds from contacts in Pakistan.
The Chicago-based Consultative Committee of Indian Muslims is also reported to have supported SIMI morally and financially.
The SIMI has links with the Jamaat-e-Islam (JeI) units in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. It also has a close working relationship with the Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), the students’ wing of the JeI in Bangladesh. The SIMI is also alleged to have close links with the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), and the ISI.
Beginning the autumn of 2000, SIMI cadres were known to have undergone training with the HM cadres in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). At least three Jalgaon (in Maharashtra) residents — Sheikh Asif Supdu, Sheikh Khalid Iqbal and Sheikh Mohammad Hanif — are believed to have died in shootouts with Indian troops near Kishtwar in J&K.
Certain SIMI leaders are reported to have close links with Pakistan-based terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed. SIMI activists, over the years, have also become a vital part of the LeT's grand plans for destabilisation in India.
SIMI also maintains ties with the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B).
SIMI is also reportedly involved in a continuous recruitment drive for the HuJI-B in Uttar Pradesh's Jaunpur, Allahabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Ambedkar Nagar, Aligarh, Azamgarh, Sonauli, Ferozabad and Hathras areas. Further, SIMI cadres, sources indicate, are involved in the safe transportation of explosives and creation of channels for funds and securing safe houses for the HuJI-B cadres.
Groups of SIMI sympathizers reportedly exist in several places in the Gulf States. Jamayyatul Ansar, an organisation of SIMI activists comprising expatriate Indian Muslims, reportedly operates in Saudi Arabia.
Several Islamist fundamentalist organisations in India are allegedly controlled by former SIMI cadres. Prominent among them are the Kerala-based National Democratic Front and Islamic Youth Centre (IYC), and the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) in Tamil Nadu.
According to official sources, in the year 1993 following the arrest of a Sikh terrorist, it was revealed that SIMI cadres, Sikh and Kashmiri terrorists, had been brought together by the ISI through the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan to carry out subversive activities.
The outfit is currently regarded as having a national presence with strong bases in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra (Aurangabad, Malegaon, Jalgaon and Thane), Andhra Pradesh and Assam. It reportedly has a strong base in various universities in these States. SIMI is also believed to enjoy the support of a large section of the Muslim populace in cities such as Kanpur, Rampur, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Lucknow and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh. Official sources are reported to have identified nine districts in Uttar Pradesh, where the SIMI is suspected of engaging in subversive activities-Lucknow, Kanpur, Aligarh, Agra, Faizabad, Bahraich, Barabanki, Lakhimpur Kheri and Azamgarh. The SIMI is also being utilised by various terrorist outfits because it has a well-knit network in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
In Kerala, SIMI operates under the cover of some 12 front organisations, at least two of which are based in the capital, Thiruvananthapuram, and a third in the port city of Kochi. Kondotty in the Malappuram District has also emerged as a hot-bed of SIMI activities. An official declaration submitted on June 1, 2006, by the Kerala Government before the tribunal examining the legality of the ban on SIMI, indicated that the outfit's cadres had ‘lately' developed links with the LeT. Reports from various agencies, including the State Police Special Branch, further indicate that SIMI is operating under the cover of religious study centres, rural development and research centres. Some of these front organisations were spreading "extremist religious ideals" among sections of youth in Kerala by acting under the guise of "counselling and guidance centres working for behavioural change". SIMI is also reported to have established a women's wing in Kerala. Generous funds for such activities flow in from contacts in Kuwait and Pakistan.
In the western State of Maharashtra, areas such as Aurangabad, Malegaon, Jalgaon and Thane have remained strongholds of the SIMI. Intelligence agencies indicate that Madrassas (seminaries) in the Districts of Jalgaon, Nashik, Thane, Sholapur, Kolhapur, Gadchiroli, Nanded, Aurangabad, Malegaon and Pune have been brought under the scanner for SIMI activities. There are more than 3,000 Madrassas in the State, with about 200,000 students. As many as 500 seminaries are located in the State capital, Mumbai. Sources indicate that many of these seminaries are potential breeding grounds for SIMI's activities.
SIMI's activities have also continued in Assam and West Bengal, where the organisation has infiltrated Madrassas, Muslim clubs, libraries, and other cultural bodies for covert mobilisation of Islamist forces. In 2003, SIMI activists have operated from the platform of ‘Islamic Siksha Shivirs' (Islamic Educational Camps) in Mograhat in the North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal. A two-day ‘workshop' organised in the District between August 31 and September 1 had, in fact, finalised the outfit's infiltration plans. Sources indicate that in August 2003, one Jamaluddin Chaudhory of the ICS had taken seven SIMI activists from Assam and West Bengal to residential Madrassas in Chittagong, Rangpur and Dhaka for ‘higher Islamic studies'. Additionally, some hardcore SIMI activists from Malda and South 24 Parganas had crossed over to Bangladesh for higher studies in Islamic theology at a Saudi-funded private institution in Chittagong. In the 2004 general elections, SIMI had backed the newly floated ‘Indian National League (INL)', which put up candidates in six constituencies of Jangipur, Murshidabad, Diamond Harbour, Basirhat, Jadavpur and Kolkata North-West. Senior SIMI leader Hasan Saidullah Ashrafi contested the Basirhat seat from the INL platform and finished seventh among eight candidates polling just 4,780 valid votes.
In the State of Madhya Pradesh, “While SIMI activities were confined to Indore, Ujjain, Khandwa and Bhopal before the ban on it in 2001, they have spread to Burhanpur, Guna, Neemuch and Shajapur as well now,” an unnamed police official was quoted as saying in Hindustan Times on August 16, 2006. Before the ban, 33 cases were registered against SIMI activists in various districts for spreading religious discord. Since then, however, 49 cases have been filed against the group. SIMI national general secretary Safdar Nagori, an Ujjain resident in his 40s, has been absconding since the ban. “He has cases against him of spreading religious discord since 1997-98,” Ajay Kumar Sharma, a Deputy Inspector General of Police, said. Since the ban, 180 SIMI activists have been arrested from across the State. And since April 2006, five SIMI members, including two women, have been taken into custody in Khandwa, four in Burhanpur and one each in Jabalpur and Ujjain.
Membership, Influence and Activities
Opposed to democracy, secularism and nationalism, SIMI has been advocating among its followers - some 400 ansars (full-time cadres) and the 20,000 ordinary members - the need to oppose "man-made" institutions and work for the Ummah.
Students up to the age of 30 years are eligible to be its members and after completing this age-limit they retire from the organization.
SIMI cadres consider Osama bin Laden as a ‘true believer of Islam’ and regard him as an epitome of ‘Islamic Hero’. According to Safdar Nagori, a prominent SIMI leader, bin Laden is "not a terrorist" and neither is Jammu and Kashmir an "integral part of India." At its congregations, messages and recorded speeches have been relayed from the Palestinian Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin and Qazi Hussein Ahmed, chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan.
Official sources have indicated that the SIMI has established links with terrorist outfits and is also supporting extremism/militancy in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere. The outfit is reported to have published objectionable posters and literature, which are intended to incite communal feelings and which question the territorial integrity of India.
Shaheen Force, the outfit’s wing for schoolchildren, seeks to "protect the children from present-day misguidance and vices" and keeps them "under the shade of Islamic culture". The outfit also has a wing that aims to channelise the talent of girls for the Islamist cause.
SIMI reportedly operates many special programmes for students of Arabic colleges and Islamic universities. Students receive training and other assistance in the study of languages and Islamic sciences. According to the SIMI, renaissance of the Ummah depends on Islamic scholars because the community can attain its glory only when it will be led and guided by sincere Ulema (scholars).
According to the SIMI, Israelis were responsible for the 9/11 attacks in New York. According to a press release issued by its secretary-general Safdar Nagori after 9/11, "there are strong reasons to believe that the recent attacks may be a conspiracy of the Zionist Israel, which is rapidly losing world support because of its inhuman and terrorist activities in Palestine."
SIMI publishes several magazines in various languages, including Vivekam in Malayalam, Sedhi Madal in Tamil, Rupantar in Bengali, Iqraa in Gujarati, Tahreek in Hindi, Al Harkah in Urdu and the Shaheen Times.