Ban on SIMI needed to reform Muslims (!): Centre

The Government having failed in its attempt to prove SIMI has been operating in the country, despite being banned has now donned the reformer mantle.

New Delhi: The Centre on 13 July justified its decision before a tribunal to extend the ban on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) saying such action is needed to bring the Muslim community to the mainstream by checking its “disgruntled” elements. “There has been substantial increase in Muslim population and also in [their] getting opportunity in various public sectors but some disgruntled elements are spreading rumours of the government discriminating against them. Hence, this ban is justified to bring Muslims in the mainstream,” additional solicitor general (ASG) AS Chandhiok said.

Defending the government’s stand, Chandhiok said, “The lawyer representing SIMI has not denied that the group is working under a new name.” The ASG made the submission before a tribunal headed by Delhi high court judge, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, which is hearing on the legality of Centre’s decision to extend the ban for the fifth time. Earlier a similar tribunal had thrown out last year the government’s fourth ban on the organisation as the authorities failed to prove their case. This led the government to scurry to the Supreme Court for a stay on the tribunal’s verdict. The apex court immediately awarded the central government its wish although the same court was sitting on SIMI’s appeals against the previous three bans.

This time round the Centre has contended that there is sufficient evidence to prove that SIMI has been operating in the country, despite being banned in 2001. The government had on February 5 extended the ban on the organisation by two years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. This is the fifth ban since 2001.

To substantiate his statement, the ASG read out confessional statements by people accused of orchestrating serial blasts across the country. “These statements show SIMI is involved in unlawful activities,” Chandhiok claimed. “The material obtained from SIMI’s offices across the country says everything. They are working under the name of IM.” IM stands for Indian Mujahidin which was recently banned by the Union home ministry weeks after it said it cannot ban the organisation because it does not know it properly.

Having failed in its attempt before the previous tribunal, the government has now donned the reformer mantle and claims to be using the ban on SIMI to reform the community which is preposterous especially when courts across the country have acquitted alleged SIMI activists in dozens of cases. “We want to give the community a message that we are not against them, but we oppose their participation in unlawful activities. We want these people to come to the mainstream and be part of a larger forum,” the ASG claimed exposing that the government is targeting the whole Muslim community in the name of SIMI.

SIMI’s erstwhile officials who contested the previous bans have decided not to contest the fresh one as it is futile to argue with a government which does not honour the verdict of a tribunal handpicked by it.