The declaration of the Popular Front of India (PFI) as an “unlawful association” has come on the back of over a decade-long campaign by the Sangh Parivar against the organisation, and its repeated demand for a ban on the outfit.
While the Sangh, through its various forums, has been flagging concerns related to the PFI since its formation in 2007, in 2013 it openly named the organisation in a resolution on radical outfits.
In October 2013, the Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal baithak of the RSS adopted a resolution where it expressed “grave concern” over “growing radicalisation of jehadi forces, especially in the southern states of Bharat”.
Flagging radicalisation of Muslim youths, terror training and export modules, attacks on Hindu activists, and “active connivance with anti-national Maoists and international jehadi elements”, the resolution said, “The emergence of PFI and its front organisations in Kerala consequent to the ban on SIMI should be seen in this context”.
Since then, the Sangh and its affiliates have consistently articulated concerns over the rising influence of the PFI, particularly in the context of Sangh members being targeted in Kerala by suspected PFI activists. While the VHP and Bajrang Dal have held protests demanding a ban on the PFI, RSS-affiliated magazine ‘Organiser’ has published close to 300 articles, reports and editorials on the PFI in the last five years alone.
The Sangh’s concerns about the PFI in public forums has become more pronounced in recent years in the wake of the RSS and BJP’s attempts to spread footprints in South India, and resultant frequent clashes with PFI workers. They have also gathered more pace following the anti-CAA protests of 2020, in which the PFI was alleged to have been at the forefront.
In January 2020, in an editorial, written by Prafulla Ketkar, the Organiser compared the protests against the CAA to the Khilafat movement and painted it as being anti Hindu. “The fear-mongering created by the Communists and the Congress and cleverly manipulated by radical Islamic organisations like the Popular Front of India is turning out to be undemocratic, violent and divisive as happened with the case of Khilafat movement,” Ketkar wrote.
Following the ED and NIA’s raids on the PFI earlier this month, Ketkar, in another editorial, argued that the raids will “go a long way in curbing the spread of Islamic radicalism in the country”, and that “the Government should continue to put pressure on the outfit so that the terror network it managed to build up over the years is destroyed completely”.
In the backdrop of the hijab controversy in Karnataka, the RSS had raised the issue of “elaborate plans by a particular community to enter the government machinery” in its annual report released in March in Gujarat. “On the strength of numbers, preparations are being made to adopt any route to get their demands accepted,” said the report, report, released during the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha baithak.
It also said there was “growing religious fanaticism” in the country in the guise of “Constitution and religious freedom”.
In October 2017, a cover story in the Organiser, titled “Mysterious Fanatics” and written by T Satisan, noted: “Whether leaders of Popular Front of India (PFI) admit or not, their activities, ideologies and modus operandi are not much different from the IS.”
More recently, the VHP has been openly demanding a ban on the PFI. Following Saudi Arabia’s ban on the Tablighi Jamaat in December 2021, the VHP said: “The authorities should also crack down on institutions and organisations like the Darul Uloom Deoband and PFI that direct or indirect nourishment to the Tablighis, Tablighi Jamaat and Ijtima.”
In February this year, the VHP and Bajrang Dal held a rally in Hyderabad over the murder of a Bajrang Dal worker in Shivamogga and called for a ban on the PFI.
In April, VHP secretary general Milind Parande slammed the Kerala government over training given by the state Fire and Rescue Services to PFI members and said that the move is a “bad example of Muslim appeasement”.
On June 16, the Bajrang Dal and VHP held protests in different parts of the country and submitted memoranda, demanding a ban on “organisations like the PFI and Tablighi Jamaat” for igniting “radical jihadi violence, atrocities, persecution in the country”.
In December 2021, after several RSS workers were killed in Kerala, BJP state president K Surendran wrote to Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and urged him to uphold the rule of law in the state. He claimed that 22 RSS and BJP workers had been killed by activists of the SDPI and PFI.