Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)

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Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)

LEADER: Dr. Shahid Badar Falah

YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1977

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: India

OVERVIEW

The Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is an Islamist extremist group based in India. It was reportedly formed in the late 1970s, and a few years from its inception, the group evolved into an extremist group promoting its objectives through violent measures.

The SIMI is banned by the government of India due to its alleged part in several terrorist operations carried out in the country. Throughout its history, Indian government and security officials have associated the group with much larger terrorist groups operating out of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

HISTORY

The Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was reportedly formed by a group of students in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh (an eastern state in India) on April 25, 1977. At the time of its formation, the group was headed by Dr. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, who had previously served as a professor of Journalism and Public Relations at the Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. At the time, Dr. Siddiqi claimed that SIMI was formed with a purpose of propagating Islam in India and other countries through educational means.

In the 1980s, the group is known to have organized peaceful rallies and other educational programs to serve its objectives. Antiterrorism experts state that by the late 1980s and early 1990s, the group started transforming into a more radical and aggressive organization. This, as thought by analysts, was due to the increasing influence of various militant groups based in Pakistan. By the 1990s, the Indian government started accusing SIMI members of anti-Hindu tactics. During this time, the group was suspected to have a part in many terrorist activities in the states of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.

In the 1990s, the group reportedly formed a schoolchildren's wing known as the Shaheen Force. This wing is thought to be targeting Muslim schoolchildren across India with the aim of promoting SIMI's aggressive ideologies. According to published reports, the terrorist operations attributed to SIMI increased towards the late 1990s. In 2000, the Indian government held members of SIMI responsible for a number of bombings in the state of Uttar Pradesh. These bombings reportedly killed more than fifty civilians. Additional bombings took place in 2001.

In the same year, government and police officials alleged that SIMI members had played a major role in inciting communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in the western state of Maharashtra. Subsequently, in September 2001, the Indian government banned the Students Islamic Movement of India under a Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

Anti-terrorism experts and government officials claim that members of SIMI carried out terrorist activities even after the ban. Police authorities alleged SIMI to be involved in the bombings in Mumbai, in 2003. Uttar Pradesh police arrested some members of SIMI in 2005 on the charge of carrying out the foiled attack on the Ramjanmbhoomi-Babri Mosque complex in Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh).

Since the ban, many members of SIMI have been reportedly arrested. As thought by analysts, the group as of 2005 comprises a few members. However, it is still considered by most to be a major security threat to various Indian states.

PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS

The Students Islamic Movement of India, as claimed by its leader Dr. Siddiqi, was formed with the purpose of promoting Islam in India and other countries through educational means. The group was reportedly known to have organized various special programs in universities for this purpose.

LEADERSHIP

DR. SHAHID BADAR FALAH

Dr. Shahid Badar Falah reportedly served as the President of SIMI from the late 1980s until 2001. Falah was arrested by the Indian police in 2001 on a number of charges. According to analysts, Falah was instrumental in disseminating extremist ideologies among the members of SIMI. He is thought to have close links with several militant groups in Pakistan.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Indian government accused Dr. Falah of being the mastermind of numerous bombings that were carried out by group members during this period. Falah is thought to be a staunch Muslim with anti-Hindu and anti-Western philosophies.

However, according to published reports, the group's ideologies and tactics changed drastically throughout the 1980s. By the early 1990s, the group advocated jihad (a term for holy war against those who do not believe in Islamist fundamentalism). Its philosophies were allegedly anti-Hindu as well as anti-West. Self-proclamations by leaders of SIMI stated that their purpose was to establish Islamic rule in India and other non-Muslim countries. Anti-terrorism experts suggest that SIMI ideologies opposed secularism and democracy and propagated the idea of a single Islam nation. The group also disagreed with Western tactics claiming them to be "suppressors" of Muslims.

SIMI allegedly had several associations with militant groups based in Pakistan. Indian government and intelligence officials claim that the group received funding as well as arms training from banned outfits such as the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Intelligence officials also claim that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, has often provided such support to group members.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the group reportedly carried out various terrorist operations to promote its philosophies. This included a number of bombings and killings in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, and other states of India. Hundreds of civilians were killed as a result of such bombings. The Indian government also accused SIMI members of inciting communal tension between Hindus and Muslims in many parts of India.

SIMI was also thought to promote its philosophies through many in-house publications and posters. These publications reportedly endorsed anti-Hindu policies and were thought to be one of the group's key strategies in promoting Hindu-Muslim riots in India.

After the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, SIMI leaders publicly made anti-American statements claiming that the entire attack was a conspiracy of Israel. Proclamations also stated that Osama bin Laden was a "true Muslim" fighting for the cause of followers of Islam around the world.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

The Indian government has often criticized the tactics of SIMI and accused group members of committing innumerable terrorist acts. In 2001, after imposing a ban on SIMI, the government issued a statement saying that they had "enough evidence" indicating an association between the group and the al-Qaeda.

The Union Home Secretary of India at the time, Kamal Pande, while justifying the ban, stated: "The banning of SIMI was not a knee-jerk reaction. We had been watching the activities of the organization closely for the past several months." He continued by saying that considerable evidence showed that the objective of the group was "governing of human life on the basis of Quran, propagation of Islam, 'jehad.' (religious war) for the cause of Islam and destruction of nationalism and establishment of Islamic rule or caliphate."

SUMMARY

As of 2005, SIMI is thought to have a few members. Many of its leaders and others were arrested by the Indian police between 2001 (after the ban on the group) and 2003. However, analysts state that the group is still associated with militant organizations based in Pakistan and elsewhere. The Indian government also suspects SIMI has been involved in some terrorist acts since the ban.

KEY EVENTS

1977:
The Students Islamic Movement of India is formed on April 25, under the leadership of Dr. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi.
1980s:
SIMI organizes numerous rallies and educational programs to promote Islam in India.
2001:
SIMI is suspected to be involved in a number of bombings that kills many civilians in Uttar Pradesh.
2001:
On September 27, the government of India bans SIMI as a terrorist organization under its Prevention of Terrorism Act.
2001:
On September 28, the day following the terrorist ban, New Delhi police arrest Dr. Shahid Badar Falah, the National President of SIMI.

SOURCES

Web sites

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base. "Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)." 〈http://www.tkb.org/Group.jsp?groupID=4255">〉 (accessed October 21, 2005).

South Asian Terrorism Portal. "Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)." 〈http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/terroristoutfits/simi.htm〉 (accessed October 21, 2005).

South Asia Analysis Group. "Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)." 〈http://www.saag.org/papers9/paper825.html〉 (accessed October 21, 2005).

The Tribune. "Organisation Had Links with Laden." 〈http://www.tribuneindia.com/2001/20010929/main2.htm〉 (accessed October 21, 2005).

SEE ALSO

Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Army of the Righteous)