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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
India arrests militant chief
A curfew was imposed in Lucknow on Thursday
By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

Police in India say they have arrested the head of an Islamic militant group one day after outlawing the organisation, the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi).

If a person is found guilty without the benefit of any evidence, then (Indian Home Minister LK) Advani should be the first person to suffer that fate.

Simi Secretary General Safdar Nagori
Police spokesman Ravi Pawar told the BBC that Shahid Badr had been taken into custody after a long search.

He has been charged with inciting communal discord in Uttar Pradesh (UP) state.

Officials see his arrest as a major success.

The Indian Government said the Simi had been outlawed following reports that it had links with Islamic militant separatist groups.

However, the Simi Secretary-General, Safdar Nagori, told the BBC that the allegations against the movement were baseless.

Lucknow disturbances

Hundreds of other activists of the group are reported to have been arrested in overnight raids at Simi offices in more than 15 states.

Simi offices across the country have also been shut down, its assets seized and bank accounts frozen.

An indefinite curfew imposed in Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday is still in force.

The move followed four deaths in violent protests against the ban on the Simi.

The authorities say no fresh violence has been reported from anywhere in the country, but a number of states have been put on high alert.

Extra precautions are being taken to ensure that Friday prayers pass off peacefully.

Bin Laden 'links'

The Indian Government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, banned the Simi under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967.

The ban comes in the wake of strong demands made by various state governments including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Home Ministry officials in Delhi say the ban had become necessary as the organisation had been supporting secessionists, advocating violence and working for an international Islamic order.

There were allegations that the radical students' outfit had links with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency and was supporting the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden.

The group was also linked to a series of bomb blasts in recent years and for communal riots in March this year.

But opposition parties have accused the BJP of attempting a polarisation of Hindu votes ahead of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, due in March this year.

The Marxist Communist Party of India has demanded that the government also ban militant Hindu organisations such as the Bajrang Dal.

A party statement alleged that the government had been silent on their activities.

See also:

20 Sep 01 | South Asia
Indian Muslims oppose US action
03 Aug 01 | South Asia
India police seize suspected militants
15 Aug 00 | South Asia
Bomb rips through Indian train
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