SIMI operating via unusual channels
New Delhi, August 27
Recently, around 10 members of a pan-India SIMI network, including the ‘mastermind’ - Mufti Abu Bashir - were arrested by the Gujarat police for the July serial bomb blasts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. Bashir, a madarsa cleric from Azamgarh, was picked up from Lucknow in a joint operation by the Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh police.
Besides using the traditional madarsas, universities and schools route, the SIMI leadership has also been operating under the cover of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social and cultural clubs, popular internet chat spots and libraries to look out for new recruits and establish the bases.
Reports from the special branch of various states’ police have indicated that SIMI has also been working under the cover of religious study centers and rural development and research bodies.
“These undercover organisations spread extremist religious ideals’ among youth by acting as counselling and guidance centers for behavioural changes,” said a senior police officer posted in Bhopal.
SIMI chief, Safdar Nagori, was arrested in Indore in March. To free Nagori, SIMI made several plans, including the hijacking of an aircraft or kidnapping of the VIPs.
The police authorities learnt about this during the interrogation of SIMI men arrested for the Ahmedabad and Bangalore blasts. Currently, Nagori is lodged in the Rewa jail.
In many cases, SIMI ‘talent hunters’ conceal their real names and introduce themselves with Hindu or another religion’s names to mask their identity.
This method of operation hints of highly professional training style, generally taught by instructors of espionage or terrorist organisations.
For many years, Indian intelligence agencies have been suspecting ‘terrorism money’ being pumped into this country through dubious NGOs, located especially in the southern states.
On record, the foreign money comes for building madarsas or for some development work. ‘Hawala’ and some banking channels have also been used for feeding the terrorism money into India.
An NGO cover, particularly in the social, education and health sectors, helps its workers in operating in the interior parts of the country.
The role of a ‘splinter group’ of SIMI has recently come under security agencies’ scanner for its link with some rural NGOs in Maharashtra and elsewhere.
In many states, especially Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala, SIMI has intensified its activities through madarsas, Muslim clubs, libraries, and other cultural bodies for covert mobilisation of cadres.
In 2003, SIMI activists operated from the platform of ‘Islamic Siksha Shivirs’ (Islamic Educational Camps) in Mograhat in the North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal.
Some activists from Assam and West Bengal were taken to madarsas (running with funds coming from Saudi Arabia) in Chittagong, Rangpur and Dhaka for ‘higher Islamic studies’.
Official sources allege that SIMI has been maintaining links with Pakistan and Kashmir terrorist outfits and is also supporting militancy in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere. Reports of the outfit’s interaction with the naxalites have also reached the Centre.
The banned organisation has also been distributing objectionable posters and literature to incite communal feelings and question the territorial integrity of India. Such material is largely distributed in J&K, Punjab and the Muslim populated areas.
For the students of Arabic colleges and Islamic universities, the SIMI cadres are operating special programmes, which include the study of languages and Islamic sciences.
The SIMI cadres are also said to be engaged in the safe transportation of explosives, creation of channels for funds and securing safe houses for foreign and Kashmiri jihadi groups.