By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter
New Delhi: To publicly question the ban on Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and demand its lifting the Muslim community launched a campaign by organizing a conference today at Constitution Club in New Delhi. It is the first time in the last eight years (SIMI was banned in September 2001) that the community has gathered courage to publicly question the ban. The community leaders have decided to build public opinion to put pressure on the central government to lift the ban.
Inaugurating the conference Dr. S Q R Ilyas, editor Afkar-e-Milli and Convener of the daylong conference on “Ban on SIMI: Why And For How Long”, said: “We are organizing this conference to demand the central government to lift the ban from SIMI as in the period of more than 8 years the government time and again has failed to provide even a single piece of evidence to justify the ban on SIMI”. “The ban on SIMI was unjustified and an attempt to malign the Muslim community in India in the name of so-called global war against terror,” he added.
Prominent community leader and Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Fatehpuri, Mufti Mohd. Mukkaram, said: “SIMI was banned to please some people and frighten the Muslim community. The ban on SIMI is unjustifiable and we oppose it.” He appealed to the Muslim community leaders, organizations and all democratic organizations to raise their voice to declare SIMI a lawful organization.
Maulana Arshad Farooqi, president, Markazi Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, described the ban politically motivated. “The ban on SIMI is politically motivated. The government banned the organization at the direction of some foreign forces,” the maulana said. While commending the move to raise voice against the ban he hoped the voice of this program will go to the masses and government will be forced to lift the ban.
Declaring the ban on SIMI undemocratic and contrary to the spirit of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Tasleem Rahmani, President, Muslim Political Council of India said, “SIMI was banned because it wanted Indian government not to follow the dictation of imperial powers and it was raising voice against injustice”. “It is need of the hour to come and join hands to demand to lift the ban from SIMI because until we pressurize the government, they are not going to do it on their own,” he added.
Investigative reporter and editor-at-large, Tehelka weekly, Ajit Sahi who has done an extensive investigation into the cases related to SIMI said, “The allegations are bogus and flimsy hence most of the accused have been released after trial”. “But what is very disturbing and alarming is that the entire project of so-called war against terror has created a sense of fear amongst Muslim masses especially youth. Moreover, it has created gulf between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens of this country”, he added. “To come out of this alarming situation, we have to initiate a process of dialogue amongst ordinary citizens and opinion building mechanism with policy makers, politicians and media persons at the earliest”, he suggested.
Noted civil rights activist Manisha Sethi, who also heads Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, while expressing her solidarity with SIMI, said: “We might not agree with the policies of SIMI or any other organization but everybody has the right to associate and practice on the lines of their belief and ideology”. Questioning the ban she said, “If anti-social and fascist organizations like RSS and its hundreds of offshoots, about whom commission after commission and report after report have proved their involvement in anti-social and communal activities especially crimes against minorities and women, can work freely, why not SIMI, about which allegations are yet to be proved?”
Narrating the experiences of communal witch hunt of Muslims in Kerala, Adv. Shahnawas of Minority Rights Watch India said, “The Muslim in Kerala especially youth are being targeted on regular basis. Hundreds of youth have been arrested and tortured in last few years. Moreover, the police and IB officials are saying Kerala is becoming hub of terrorist activities,” he added.
Presiding over the conference, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, editor, Milli Gazatte urged the gathering to engage with media and start media initiatives. “Today, media is the most important tool to win any struggle”, he asserted. He also called upon organizations and all justice loving people to join this initiative.
Leaders of other important Muslim organization like Jamaat e Islami Hind, Bharti Majlis spoke at the conference. The conference approved resolutions demanding, lifting ban on SIMI, Independent probe in all riots and disruptive acts during last ten years, Police and Judicial reforms, punishing police officers involved in fake encounters, custodial deaths, etc.
Profile of SIMI
SIMI was founded in Aligarh on April 25, 1977 as a students’ organisation to follow and propagate the path set by the Quran and Prophet Mohammad. SIMI first came to national attention in 1984 with a conference it organised in New Delhi to debate the challenges before India’s Muslims. The first criminal cases against SIMI began to surface in 1998 onwards. With the BJP-led NDA in power at the Centre and the BJP ruling Uttar Pradesh, security agencies began building a case against SIMI. By 2000, the Union Home Ministry had begun to say that SIMI was under its scanner for possible connections with Pakistani terror groups. In 2001, in the wake of the terror attacks in the United States on September 11, the Indian government banned SIMI on September 27, 2001, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, for two years stating SIMI’s involvement in anti-national and terrorists acts. The ban was renewed thrice. Each time, a tribunal constituted by the Centre upheld the ban after elaborate proceedings. But the fourth ban promulgated on February 8, 2008 was rejected by a tribunal headed by Delhi High Court judge Geeta Mittal on August 6 last year. The next day, however, the Central Government reached the Supreme Court and the apex court stayed the tribunal’s order.
As the term of fourth ban is ending on coming February 7, it is feared the government will again ban the group for two years more. That’s why the community has risen up to raise voice against the ban.