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SIMI is dangerous

SIMI is dangerous

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 7, 2008

Tribunal erred in lifting ban

The Supreme Court has done the right thing by ruling on Wednesday that the ban on the Students' Islamic Movement of India will continue, thus staying Tuesday's astonishing order of a special tribunal which lifted restrictions on this jihadi organisation's activities while rejecting the Government's case. Thankfully, the Union Home Ministry did not waste any time and sought the apex court's intervention before the tribunal's order could cause any damage -- the Additional Solicitor-General was not exaggerating when he drew the Supreme Court's attention to the "serious consequences" of allowing the ban to be lifted. While there is reason to believe that the Union Home Ministry was not sufficiently alert to the possibility of the tribunal, headed by a Delhi High Court judge, passing an adverse order, valid questions have been raised about the manner in which the ban on SIMI was set aside and the reasons that were cited to justify the decision. For instance, as mentioned by the Additional Solicitor-General, the tribunal's 263-page order skirts the merits of the case against SIMI, ignoring the Intelligence Bureau reports on members of the organisation indulging in terrorist activities, provided by the Government, even while iterating that there is "no new evidence" to justify the February 7 notification extending the ban till 2010. Strangely, the tribunal has chosen to ignore overwhelming evidence -- as is claimed to have been submitted by the Government -- about SIMI's links with terrorist organisations like Hizb-ul Mujahideen and Lashker-e-Tayyeba. It is equally inexplicable as to why the tribunal has chosen not to take note of the contents of a Cabinet note, which was placed before it in a sealed envelope, and ignore the "deposition of 77 witnesses". These witnesses were not low-level operatives but senior officials of Intelligence Bureau and State intelligence agencies; if their deposition is brushed aside, then there is something seriously wrong with the criminal justice system. If the tribunal was looking for the proverbial smoking gun, then it should have known better: Terrorism is not fought with material evidence.

Ironically, the tribunal's order, clearly flawed and illogical, comes within days of the terrorist bombings in Ahmedabad, Surat, Bangalore and, before that, Jaipur. From Delhi to Hyderabad, Mumbai to Malegaon, Jaipur to Lucknow and Ahmedabad to Surat, the black hand of SIMI is suspected to have played a role in the killing of innocent people. The busting of the terror module in Indore earlier this year, which led to the arrest of key SIMI office-bearers on the run from the law for years, has also been overlooked by the tribunal. India's criminal justice system, including investigation and prosecution, has often come up for scathing criticism in Western capitals in the context of our abject failure to combat jihadi terror. The tribunal's order would appear to justify much of this criticism, as would the inordinate delay in despatching terrorists to their destination -- either behind bars or the gallows. Meanwhile, it is shocking that even as the Government is pressing hard for extending the ban on SIMI, key allies of the Congress and senior Cabinet colleagues of the Prime Minister are pushing for the ban to be lifted. Muslim politics, it would seem, has now degenerated into pandering to jihadis.

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