Terror: The India Connection!
mid nineteen thirties student community in India was not
communally divided. The thundering slogan of 'Vande Mataram' (Salute
to Motherland) during freedom movement thrilled the students and
youth of the country irrespective of their religious faith.
The All India Students Conference, which subsequently formed All
India Students Federation (AISF) during freedom struggle unitedly
fought against the colonial rule till 1936 when a group of Muslim
students seceded from it on the plea that it was a Hindu dominated
organisation. They subsequently organised a group on communal
lines in January 1937 and formed the All India Muslim Students
Federation (AIMSF) with Mohammad Nauman as President and Mohammad
Waseeque as Organising Secretary.
Initially, the Muslim students of AMU and Lucknow University
strongly opposed the division of students on communal line but AIMSF
worked as an adjunct to tail of Muslim League with the patronage of
Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Mohammed Iqbal and finally became the main
voice of Muslim students during freedom struggle. Starting its
campaign with strong reservation against the non-Islamic crest in
Calcutta and Nagpur universities and also against the then vibrant
slogan of 'Vande Mataram' on the plea that it was anti-Islamic,
AIMSF attracted the Muslim masses in favour of Pakistan Movement.
Iqbal (1877-1938) " sent a message of encouragement cheering
the Muslim students on their great achievement" (Muslim
Students and Pakistan Movement - Sarfaraz Hussain Mirza, XXII,
1988). Though he could not accept the invitation of the AIMSF
to preside over its first annual session (December 28, 1937) on
grounds of health, he " exhorted the Muslim students to carry
on their good work for the national cause (Muslim nation) without
being hampered by any kind of opposition" (Ibid. PageXXIV).
The theory of separate statehood for Muslim as enunciated by Iqbal
in 1930 worked as a motivational factor for AIMSF.
The resolution adopted in the first annual session of AIMSF with
presidential address of Jinnah hardly had anything to do with the
modern and secular education to the Muslims. Its 'working
scheme' had an important clause, which read “that 'Fath-e-Mecca'
be observed as Muslim Students Day and demand should be made for the
introduction of compulsory religious instructions for Muslim
children in all schools" (The Punjab Muslim Students Federation
by Sarfaraz Hussain Mirza, Introduction, 1991).
AIMSF though made a significant contribution to the creation of
Pakistan, it left a legacy of endemic Hindu-Muslim tension to be
carried forward by their successive generation in democratic and
secular India. Since prescription of Iqbal and Jinnah was not
relevant in new state of India, Muslim students maintained a
relatively low profile after partition.
With the defeat of the Indira Gandhi after emergency and emergence
of the Janata Party Government at centre in 1977 a group of Muslim
students under the patronage of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEIH)
assembled at Aligarh on April 25, 1977 and formed Students Islamic
Movement of India (SIMI). "The meeting was attended by
representatives of Students Islamic Organisation from
Aligarh,Calicut, Mallapuram, Madras, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Allahabad,
Sholapur,, Patna, Azamgarh, Jaipur and S. Madhupur" (Radiance
dated May 1, 1977). An "amalgamation of a number of students
and youth bodies like Muslim Students Association, Students Islamic
Union, Students Islamic Organisation, Muslim Youth Association"
(Radiance, an Organ of JEIH), SIMI gradually became a platform for
fanatical Muslim students, who were opposed to democracy, secularism
Though, SIMI was not the main voice of Muslim students of the
country, in the absence of any visible resistance from them a
general impression was created that it was the sole representative
body of the latter. In a changed political environment SIMI
planned for reviving resurgent Islam in India in a more coordinated
manner with an overall objective to Islamise this biggest democracy
for challenging the hegemony of Christian tradition at international
its political pronouncement SIMI gave a call for restoration of the
Caliphate for the unity of Ummah(Muslim community as a whole) by
rejecting the concept of nationalism, democracy and secularism.
Its political ideology was dominated by the mainstream Islamic
fundamentalism propounded by Maulana Maududi, the founder of the JEI.
Till October 1987 all the successive presidents of SIMI were the
senior members of the JEI.
In Islamic history the people, who had helped the Prophet in Madina,
when he was driven away from Mecca - were called Ansaars.
Accordingly SIMI drew inspiration from this historical event and
recruited Ansaars (helpers) as its cadres from the Muslim students
below thirty years of age. While the Prophet strengthened his
position in Madina with the support of Ansaars and fought beck
Mecca, SIMI intended to fight against the present political system
in the country with the support of its cadres (Ansaars) for
establishment of Islamic State.
SIMI drew ideological inspirations from the Muslim thinkers, who
launched Islamic movements in India after the decline of Muslim rule
in this country in eighteenth century. Prominent among them
* Shah Walliullah: He had invited Ahmad Shah Abdali of Afghanistan
to fight against Marathas in 1760.
Sayyid Ahmad: As a staunch follower of Shah Waliullah, he had
launched Islamic Jehad "to liberate all India from foreign
domination and establish a genuine Islamic state. He was
however, killed in a battle with Sikh in 1831 at Balkot"
(Islamic Movement, a monthly organ of SIMI, Volume 3, January 1992).
Haji Shariat Allah: He had launched Fara'idi movement in nineteenth
century to create pure Islamic order in the society.
Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala
Maududi: He was the founder of JEI.
Emergence of SIMI in democratic and secular India was a reminder to
the formation of AIMSF in 1937. While the emergence of
AIMSF was to strengthen movement for Pakistan, the SIMI was born to
carry forward the legacy of Indian Islamic Movement launched by
Muslim thinkers from Shah Waliullah to Maulana Maududi and to
complete their unfinished agenda of establishing Islamic rule in the
country. AIMSF countered the movement for social integration
of Hindus and Muslims launched by the Congress under the leadership
of Mahatma Gandhi whereas the SIMI followed Jinnah, in rejecting the
concept of nationalism. While Jinnah had a secret support from the
then British authorities for his communal demand, SIMI got similar
support from Pakistan and other fundamentalist groups from Muslim
world for its movement against secularism and democracy.
Relying upon the jehadi power of Islam Jinnah succeeded in creation
of Pakistan, SIMI equally depended on jehadi passion of Islam for
its resurgence in India.
SIMI maintained, "it is the responsibility of this (Muslim)
'last community', the 'best community', the 'middle community', to
rise up and face the challenges that surround it, to revive Deen, to
lead and guide not only the Islamic world, but all of humanity along
the 'Straight Path' and rescue it from the clutches of Satanic
power. It is the demand of the time that Muslim youth should
struggle for the superiority and establishment of Deen and revival
of Islam in the light of Holy Quraan and Sunnah"(SAGA OF
STRUGGLE -Annual Report 1998-2000, page 3, published by SIMI, New
According to SIMI "the end of Khilafah(Caliphate) led to our
(Muslim) disintegration into different countries on the basis of
nationalism, language and other sectarian prejudices.
Naturally therefore, our main responsibility is to strive in those
areas, which are directly related to the reinstating of Khalifah"
(Ibid. Page 8). Since its inception SIMI has kept Caliphate at the
centre of discussion from local to central level and had been in
communication of thought on this issue with the like-minded Islamic
organisations of the world. It claimed to be in touch with 25
organisations from all over the world through Internet and its
delegation participated in workshops conducted by Dawah Academy in
Sri Lanka in 1999 and attended the Ijtema of Jamat-e-Islami in
Pakistan in 1998. SIMI is also known to be in touch with
number of Islamic organisations of the world like:
Federation of Students Islamic Societies (FOSIS) -
United Kingdom and Ireland.
Ittehad al-Tallab al-Muslimeen - Myanmar
Islami Chhatra Shibir - Bangladesh.
Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba - Pakistan.
Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) - Malaysia.
World Assembly of Muslim Youth (Riyadh)
Internatinal Islamic Federation of Students organisations
Consultative Committee of Indian Muslims (Chicago)
Jamaat-e-Islam units of Pakistan, Bangladesh and
Nepal (Islamic Movement, a monthly organ of SIMI, VOL. 3,
January 1992 and Internet news).
the issue of secularism SIMI "feels it is essential to
emphasise that no political party or organisation can bring about a
solid and constructive change through secularism in the light of
their erratic ideologies. The only way to bring about real
change through …… establishing an Islamic system of life"
(Ibid. Page34). Interpretation of secularism and democracy as
un-Islamic, rejection of nationalism and propagation of Islam as
"only way to bring about real change" suggest that SIMI
believed in confrontative Islam.
With units in different parts of India SIMI often raised voice
against national and international issues, which were not in tune
with its Islamic movement. In september 1985 it played a
vibrant role in joining protest demonstrations all over the country
against the Supreme Court verdict in Shahbano case. It
campaigned against singing of Vande Mataram in U.P. schools, and
protested against blasphemy regarding the Prophet. Since its
inception SIMI made a protracted attempt to project itself as the
main voice of Indian Muslims. Unfortunately, no Muslim student
organisation came forward to counter it.
After demolition of Babari Mosque in 1992, SIMI exploited the
enraged sentiments of Muslim mass. By the closing decade of
twentieth century it increased its influence in a sizeable section
of Muslim populace in different cities of Utaar Pradesh, Bihar,
Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madya Pradesh ,
Gujarat and Assam. It always maintained pro-Pakistan stand on
Indo-Pak conflict and spoke in the language of Pakistan on the issue
of Jammu and Kashmir. By mid nineties its defiant and militant
posture even annoyed its patron the JEIH, which started maintaining
distance from it possibly due to tactical reason.
SIMI projected the Muslims killed in communal riots as martyrs and
complemented those who were detained by Police with the honour of
Islamic warriors sacrificing for the cause of faith. With
these activities SIMI succeeded in generating some interest in
middle class Muslim society that was earlier immune to violent
interpretation of jehad in Islam. Its hate campaign against
Qafirs (non-believers) only increased the widening gulf of mistrust
between Hindus and Muslims.
SIMI considered USA as enemy of Islam and joined radical Islamists
for their aggressive criticism of the presence of American troops in
Soudi Arabia. "The Saudis invited in the U.S. military shortly
after Saddam Hussein invaded Iraq's oil-rich neighbor Kuwait, on
August 2, 1990. To help protect the kingdom and prepare to
expel Iraq from Kuwait, the United States sent about 500,000 troops
to Saudi Arabia". "U.S. presence was opposed by some
in the kingdom -- the site of Islam's holiest sites -- and was among
reasons cited by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden for his al-Qaida attacks
on America on Sept. 11, 2001. …. The base became the center of the
U.S. presence in the country in 1997 after the Khobar Towers bombing
that killed 19 airmen and injured 400 others"
By 1997, when the base of American troops in Saudi Arabia, became a
centre of U.S. presence, radical Islamists all over the world took
it as a danger to their faith. In July 1998 SIMI held demonstration
in Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi against the presence of American
troops in the Holy Land of Hijaz. For SIMI, it was "not only a
gross violation of some of the last instructions or will of the
Prophet, but also represents a sinister plot on the part of the
enemies of Islam to desecrate and capture its holiest site"
(Annual Report 1998-2000 of SIMI,page 9).
SIMI publishes monthly and weekly organs in different languages
Islamic Movement (Monthly) in English, Hindi and Urdu.
Sethi Mandal (Monthly) in Tamil.
Iqraa (Monthly) in Gujrati.
Rupaantar (Monthly) in Bengali.
Vivekam (Bimonthly) in Malayalam.
Tehreek (Weekly) in Hindi.
By the closing decade of twentieth century particularly after the
BJP came to power at the centre the SIMI succeeded in expanding its
influence to a visible extent among Muslim students. Moreover, the
Muslim middle class, a product of western education and not yet
reconciled with its lost medieval supremacy - provided open space to
SIMI,s cadres. With financial help from oil-rich Muslim
countries to carry forward the Arab legacy of Islamic imperialism
and material support from Pakistan to create disorder in India
strengthened the morale of SIMI leaders. In view of
inflammatory statements, alleged involvement in inciting communal
violence in certain places in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and other
states and arrest of its leaders, some of the state Governments
recommended for a ban on SIMI. Arrest of a SIMI activist in bomb
blast case in Sabarmati Express near Faizabad (August 15, 2000), its
alleged involvement in bomb blast incident in Delhi (May, 2001) and
provocative statements of its leaders supported its jehadi design.
Keeping in view its activities detrimental to national interest,
Government of India ultimately put a ban on SIMI in September 2001
by declaring it an unlawful association.
Justice S.K.Aggarwal of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal
confirmed the ban notification of the Government and said:
is clear that the members, office bearers and activists of SIMI
association have been indulging in unlawful activities…. I hold
that there is sufficient cause for confirming the notification
issued under sub-section(1) of Section 3 of the Act, declaring SIMI
to be an unlawful association and the same is confirmed" (The
Pioneer dated May 10, 2002).
Although, SIMI's challenge to democratic and secular system was
temporarily defeated, propagation of radical Islam by thousands of
its Ansaars will remain a source of concern for India particularly
in a predominantly non-Muslim environment. Restoration of
Caliphate might be the dream of radical Islamists but they ignore
the historical records that suggest how Caliphate shifted to
monarchy. Marshal G. S. Hodgson in his book - 'the Venture of
Islam' opined: "At the height of Islamic history during the
Abbasid (Dynasty of Caliph) period, the Caliphate, as the
traditional Islamic system of Government was an absolute monarchy.
The historical records show, as a symbol of his power, there stood
beside him the executioner ready to kill the most exalted personage
at a word" (The Challenge of Fundamentalism by Bassam Tibi,
1998, page 160-61).
Purpose of this discussion is not to criticise the Muslim
students but to suggest them to denounce the clerics favouring
medieval interpretation of Islam. They should in fact change
the mode of their thinking as exhorted by Malaysian Prime Minister
Mahathir during the recent Islamic summit held in Malaysia.
Pointing out to the angry mood of Muslims against anti Muslim
forces, he said, " Angry people cannot think properly.
And so we find some of our people reacting irrationally. In
contemporary India it is also the responsibility of the present
generation of Muslim students to give a wake up call to their
co-religionists for developing a twenty-first century mindset, which
does not approve religious hegemony of any community.
Religion is basically a spiritual path to reach the Divine. Its role
in politics if any is to bring peace in society with its
spiritualisation. Permeating communal interpretation of Islam in
modern world in the minds of Muslim students is not only harmful to
the country but it is also a major hindrance to the meaningful
progress of Muslim society as a whole. Contrary to it deeply
ingrained religious intolerance and violent burden of historical
luggage carried by SIMI - have adversely affected the Islamic ethos
of forbearance and liberalism as projected by some saner section in
the community. World Tower incident in USA and attempt to
attack Indian Parliament has only negated such Islamic ethos. The
fundamental postulate of SIMI was Islamisation of India by
recruiting Ansaars for jehadi onslaught on non-believers. Generating
negative energy in the name of religion by the self-appointed
guardians of Muslim students only accelerated the widening divide
between Hindus and Muslims. Ironically, Muslim intellectuals,
politicians or Muslim students looked other way and did not come
forward to counter the divisive move of this radical outfit in
Mahatma Gandhi tried to educate the people to " shed fear,
hatred and violence for the unity, equality and brotherhood of man.
He passionately believed in the unity of all religions and the
universality of the essential teachings of all faiths" (Hindu
dated September 28, 2003). The President A.P.J.Kalam "
called upon the youth to make India economically strong with an
integrated spiritual life, if they wish to live in a peaceful,
prosperous and safe country" (Hindu dated September 27, 2003).
But those, who created Pakistan, termed Mahatma Gandhi as a Hindu
leader although he sacrificed his life for the cause of Muslims. For
SIMI the saner words of Mahatma Gandhi and A.P.J. Kalam have no
relevance, as they still believe in revival of Caliphate in a
democratic and secular society in which majority are
special arrangement with South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi,