Islamic Terrorism in India

Most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims

Kota, SIMI hotspot in Rajasthan

Posted by jagoindia on September 2, 2008

SIMI stigma may sharpen polarisation in Kota
Rajan Mahan
Sunday, August 31, 2008, (Kota) Investigations into the Jaipur serial blasts in May have traced the trail to Kota in Rajasthan.

Sajid Mansuri, the alleged mastermind of the blasts lived for years here and allegedly turned it into a hotbed of activity for SIMI, the Students Islamic Movement of India.

Sajid has been arrested by the Gujarat police along with his seven alleged accomplices in Kota. Their families deny all the charges but the SIMI stigma has made Kota a deeply divided city.

A modest Dargah in Kota at the South Eastern tip of Rajasthan is in the eye of a storm after the arrests.

The Rajasthan Police claims three terror camps were held here over the past year. And the last one in January, the conspiracy behind the Jaipur blasts, was allegedly hatched by Sajid Mansuri.

But those charges have been questioned by the ones who live here, just as they have questioned the arrests made in Kota. Amongst the seven arrests are Ishaque Qureshi and his son Taufique in whose house Mansuri lived for nearly 4 years, after giving the Gujarat police the slip in 2002.

The police claim that changing his name to Salim and posing as a dealer of the regions famous Kota stone, he allegedly organised SIMI activities, with the help of father and son, who worked as homeopaths. Arrests have shocked their family and neighbours.

“We only knew him as Salim. He came with a wife and kids and rented our house. So many people, even rich ones, take in tenants. Is it a crime that we rented our house?” said Jamila, Ishaque Quereshi’s wife.

The extent of a ‘local hand’, if any, in the terror plot is unclear. But what is clear is that in recent years, Kota has been vulnerable to hardline influences, visible in its old city area, where the fear of communal violence is a legacy of the riots of 1989 and 1992, when the Ramjanmabhoomi became a flashpoint for tensions.

Further hardening polarisations was Muslims from here seeking Gulf employment bringing back Gulf money and Gulf ideas.

Today, over 40 per cent of Hindus have moved out of mixed mohallas, because of fears of growing radicalism.

“In masjids and madarsas in Kota, they regularly teach that ‘Islam is in danger’ and that they are all victims of injustice from the ‘Kafirs’. When this has been the climate in our mohallas for many years, it is no shock that Kota has become a SIMI centre,” said Brajesh Bhatnagar, resident of Ghantaghar area.

On the other side, there is massive mobilisation by the VHP and Bajrang Dal campaigns, including numerous trishul deekshas. In the past few years, even villages around Kota, like Suket, Sangod and Patan, have seen communal flare ups.

“Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena people here say that to fight terrorism, they are raising a Durgavahini force. Is our Indian Army or govt unfit to tackle terrorism?” said a resident of Maqbara Mohalla in Kota.

“Instead if we try to organise our community we are immediately branded as terrorists,” he added.

But despite the fissures, reassuring signs still remain intact. Like Kota Doria sarees woven by Muslim weavers and sold by Hindu traders for centuries. And most residents hope, the SIMI stigma will not snap, the threads of a shared past.

Temples and mosques standing adjacent to each other are enduring symbols of Kota’s composite culture. But in recent years, extremist attitudes have escalated here.

Unless those are countered effectively, the polarisation could now intensify sharply. End

Further reading:  Shahbaz gives details of SIMI training camps

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