PUDR statement against the ban on SIMI and the arrest of Advocate Shahnawaz

May 14, 2012

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights

14 May 2012

PRESS STATEMENT

PUDR has long argued against the ban on SIMI. We welcome the Supreme Court’s issue of notices to the Central government on two pleas against the continuous banning of SIMI. Decclared an unlawful organisation under Sec 3 of the UAPA in 2001 SIMI has been banned for the last ten years. In February this year the Central government passed a notification extending the ban against SIMI for the sixth time. In these ten years several petitions have been filed in the courts appealing against the ban but this is the first time that the Supreme Court has taken cognisance of it.

The petitioners have questioned the ban on the basis of the Constitutional validity of the law under which it has been imposed, as violative of fundamental freedoms. These grounds are not new. They constitute some of the arguments repeatedly presented in SIMI’s appeals before the Review Committee. These have fallen on deaf ears except for In 2008 the tribunal had ruled in SIMI’s favour on the grounds that the central govt’s reasons/facts for extending the ban were exactly the same as for the previous ban! These are insufficient as according to the UAPA the reasons for extending the ban have to be violations committed during the period when the latest ban was in operation. However the government appealed against the tribunal’s decision and the SC stayed the Tribunal’s order. In this context the present SC order is a vast advancement.

What this history makes clear is that the ban on SIMI is a foregone conclusion and the role of various state agencies only to maintain it. If that was not enough, ceratin recent, seemingly innocuous and unrelated events have occurred which make PUDR somewhat circumspect about pinning too many hopes on the SC order.

Currently the UAPA Tribunal is judging whether there is sufficient cause for SIMI to still be considered an unlawful organisation and the ban imposed is holding sittings the last being in Trivandrum on 2nd and 3rd May. The specific instances of unlawful activities cited by the NIA and Kerala police in their depositions arguing for the ban’s continuation include . ithe Edakkad Kashmir recruitment case, the Vagamon camp, and the Pannaikulam meeting. All these predate 2008 ie the period of the previous ban, and are therefore not admissible! The NIA and Kerala police’s main argument for continuing the ban is that SIMI is still opertaional in the state in the form of certain front organisations, and that they are disseminating information that threatens the security and sovereignity of the State.

The very vagueness of these ‘facts’ makes individuals vulnerable and works to the detriment of SIMI, in an inescapable cycle. An illustrative case is that of Advocate Shahanwaz. On 1st May Advocate Shahnawaz who had been helping SIMI in its cases for the past several years was arrested and papers and documents seized from his office. He has been accused of involvement in the Cyber intelligence leak incident where the Madhyamam weekly alleged that the Kerala state Intelligence department had put 268 individuals of whom 258 were Muslims under email surveillance on suspicions of associations with SIMI. The police denied the allegations and the CM after ordering an inquiry into the hacking, then withdrew it.

Through this web of fictions Shahanawaz becomes ‘evidence’ of SIMI’s unlawful operations in Kerala. His legal involvement with SIMI, his use of the media for purposes of dissemination, his spreading of the supposed ‘disinformation’ about the cyber surveillance thus disturbing communal harmony and hindering agencies protecting the security of the nation, make him living proof of SIMI’s continuing existence and operation in the state, as argued by the police.

In short the arrest serves a number of purposes – 1) to handicap SIMI’s appeal as Advocate Shanawaz had been helping the SIMI lawyers; 2) to discredit SIMI and those supporting its appeal; 3) to dissuade others from aiding SIMI in its appeals; 4) to supplement the NIA and Kerala police’s submissions on why the ban ought to be renewed.

The events outlined above once again illustrate the the acts of omission and commission (by various state agencies), the weaving and unweaving of tenuous links that go into the banning of an organisation and behind which lies the will of an undemocratic state.

PUDR demands:

- The ban on SIMI be removed
- All those arrested under UAPA as members of SIMI be released and cases against them withdrawn.
- Case against Advocate Shahnawaz be immediately withdrawn

Paramjeet Singh
Preeti Chauhan
(Secretaries, PUDR)