The Kafka Project

“Naturally the common people don’t want war… That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
ON THE morning of September 27, 2001, Shahid Badr Falahi, a doctor of the alternative medicine system of Unani and the president of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), sat with a few colleagues in the SIMI office in a Muslim neighbourhood of South Delhi, wondering what’s next. Fatigued from two weeks of public meetings across Uttar Pradesh from where he had returned only the previous night, Falahi had just finished speaking with SIMI’s office-bearers across India. Using the local STD booth as his office phone had been dead for hours, call after call fetched an echo: anxious SIMI activists in Mumbai, Lucknow, Indore, Kolkata, Chennai, Kozhikode, Patna and other cities said the police had sealed their offices the previous night without explanation. At 4 pm, Falahi got to know why. The television news announced that the Union Home Ministry had invoked a 1967 law against “unlawful activities” and banned SIMI for two years with immediate effect.
“The nature of this organisation had become apparent and preliminary information sent by various state governments only confirmed its tendencies,” LK Advani, then Union Home Minister, told reporters that evening. The notification his ministry issued that day banning SIMI qualified Advani’s assertion. “SIMI has been indulging in activities which are prejudicial to the security of the country and have the potential of disturbing peace and communal harmony and disrupting the secular fabric of the country,” the terse, six-paragraph notification said, strongly suggesting that the government had a watertight case against SIMI with unchallengeable proof.
Other grave charges levelled said SIMI:
• Was in “close touch” with militant outfits and supported “extremism/militancy in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere”
• Supported claims for seceding parts of India’s territory and groups fighting for it, and thus questioned India’s territorial integrity
• Was working to establish an “international Islamic order”
• Published objectionable posters and literature “calculated to incite” communal feelings and question India’s territorial integrity

Most damning was the government’s claim that SIMI was “involved in engineering communal riots” across India. The notification said SIMI’s anti-national and militant “postures” were “clearly manifest” at its various conferences. “The speeches of the leaders [at the conferences]… glorified Pan Islamic Fundamentalism,” the notification read, claiming to expose SIMI’s nefarious designs. “[The leaders] used derogatory language for the deities of other religions and exhorted Muslims for Jehad.”