The Indian Mujahideen, one of the most dreaded terrorist groups in India is back in the news. The back to back arrests of two of its top men- Abdul Subhan and Ariz Khan are without a doubt a major breakthrough for the security agencies.
Both Subhan and Khan had fled India in 2008 and it took the agencies a decade to get to them. Subhan was arrested in January while Khan was picked up on Wednesday.
While scores of officers would rush to Delhi to quiz the IM operative, the more important aspect of these arrests are related to the revival of the group. The outfit has seen many births and deaths over the past decade and a half. Let us look into the journey of the IM.
Students Islamic Movement of India:
The SIMI was formed in Aligarh Uttar Pradesh in April 1977. The prime objective was the liberation of India from Western materialistic cultural influence and also to convert the Muslim society to live according to the Muslim code of conduct.
While for long it continued with the slogan, "Allah is our Lord and Quran is our Constitution," the thought process turned radical after a couple of years. A few communal riots in the 1990s changed the perspective of some within the outfit. A bunch of radical elements within the outfit started directing their thoughts towards Pakistan. The Intelligence Bureau was keeping a watch on its activities.
It repeatedly sent out reports to the Ministry for Home Affairs. After much deliberation and consideration, the outfit was banned in 2001. While the ban was renewed from time to time, in the year 2008 a special tribunal lifted the ban. It was however restored by the Supreme Court on August 6, 2008. As of today, the ban is still in force.
Following the ban, there was a two way split in the SIMI. The moderate faction led by Shahid Badr Falahi decided to fight the ban legally. However there were an equal number of members who felt wronged and targeted.
This led to the birth of a radical faction within the SIMI which was led by Safdar Nagori. He opposed Falahi tooth and nail and said that the only way to fight this out was with arms. However Nagori's stint was a short one and he was arrested at Indore, Madhya Pradesh on 26 March 2008.
The Indian Mujahideen is born:
Nagori however oversaw the transformation of the SIMI into the Indian Mujahideen. The first announcement was made following the court blast at Uttar Pradesh. A note stating, "we are the Indian Mujahideen,' was found at the crime scene.
Following Nagori's arrest in 2008, his followers, Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal, Abdul Subhan among others decided to run the show. There were highly qualified operatives such as Mansoor Pheerbhoy who were part of the outfit. Their attacks were brazen in nature. Such was the brazen nature of the attack that during the Gujarat blasts, they had even announced that they would strike prior to the blast.
Between 2007 and 2008 the IM had a successful run. It carried out deadly blasts at UP, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi. However with the heat raising, Riyaz, Iqbal and Subhan fled the country. Pheerbhoy and members of his dreaded Pune module were arrested. Subhan it may be recalled was arrested in January 2018.
Then came the Batla House encounter in which the IM was dealt with a severe body blow. Two operatives were killed in the encounter while another Ariz Khan fled from the spot for Nepal. Khan was arrested on February 14, 2018. This led to a collapse of the IM as the top leadership was literally wiped out.
The revival and the deadly four:
Between 2008 and 2010 there was a lull in the activities of the IM. The outfit was in re-grouping mode. It was reduced to four members, but in the next two years they turned out to be lethal in nature. The deadly four comprised, Yasin Bhatkal, Tehseen Akthar, Waqas and Assadullah Akthar. They operated as a group of four and added no new member to the group.
The small number turned out to be their deadliest weapon and it had become almost impossible to track them. They never used cell phones or emails unlike their predecessors who were all tech savvy. All communication was in person and they always moved around together.
In the year 2010, the outfit carried out three attacks- Pune, Jama Masjid and Varanasi. While the Pune blast was high in intensity the strikes at Varanasi and Jama Masjid were damp squibs. It was clear that they were on revival mode and were testing the waters.
However the blasts after were deadly in nature. The same group of four struck outside the Chinnaswamy stadium which is considered to be a high profile attack. The group then carried out the deadly serial blasts in Mumbai in 2011. Then came the Dilsukhnagar blasts in Hyderabad.
The fall of the IM:
After many hits and misses, the agencies finally caught up to Yasin Bhatkal on August 28, 2013. The rest of the three too were arrested in quick succession. Following this there have been attempts to revive the outfit, but all have been failed attempts.
The jailbreak in Madhya Pradesh by some members of the SIMI was one such attempt to revive the group. These persons had escaped from jail and were involved in a spate of bank robberies aimed at raising funds. However for them luck ran out and they were either nabbed or killed in encounters.
The final revival:
The questioning of both Subhan and Ariz Khan have revealed that they were in revival mode. They were in constant touch with Riyaz and Iqbal based out of Karachi in Pakistan.
They felt that there was need to have a strong homegrown outfit. They felt that they needed the experience of the old cadre and hence were roping in all those who had fled in 2008. For now the agencies have managed to get the better of them. However looking at the journey from 2001, one could say that each time the IM has attempted a revival it has succeeded and hence it is never wise to write them off.