The National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s raids on the premises of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and the en bloc arrests of its Kerala top brass has intensified the political battle between the right-wing Muslim outfit and the Sangh Parivar in the state.
Both camps have seized on this crackdown to step up their bids to extract political mileage and widen communal faultlines in order to expand their support bases in the Left-ruled state.
Without naming any outfit, the BJP’s national president J P Nadda on Monday charged that Kerala has become a hotbed of terror and fringe elements.
Kerala BJP chief K Surendran alleged that the PFI was working for Pakistan and that his party would not capitulate before the extremists. At the same time, Surendran said the BJP would be with the Christian community which, he alleged, was facing a threat from Muslim extremists.
Despite most of its leaders in judicial custody and others in hiding, the PFI and its political wing Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) have started campaigns such as “release political prisoners’’ and “jails cannot destroy PFI” through their social media handles, crying foul over an alleged “NIA-RSS nexus”.
The massive September 22 crackdown on the PFI, spearheaded by the NIA across the country, came days after the PFI held a mega “Save the Republic’’convention in Kozhikode, which marked a major campaign against the RSS.
At the September 17 PFI event, the All India Imams Council’s state general secretary Afsal Qasimi said that the Muslim community should be “courageous” enough to stand up against the Sangh Parivar’s “communal campaign”. “The community should show the courage to demonstrate that we are equipped to defend a possible threat against us. The anti-fascist slogans are not going to end here. PFI would not rest until it has dug graves of the Sangh Parivar in the country,’’ he said.
In recent years, the PFI has been projecting itself as the lone Muslim force which is capable of taking on the might of the RSS and the BJP. The repeated incidents of political killings and counter-killings involving the PFI and the RSS in Kerala in recent years have enabled the radical Muslim outfit to project and reinforce its image as “the Muslim community’s answer to the Sangh Parivar’s threat”. The right-wing Muslim circles believe that the PFI is being allegedly targeted for posing a challenge to the Sangh Parivar.
The Kerala police’s move to raid Muslim shops and business establishments in some parts of the state as part of its probe into the September 23 violence, which erupted during the PFI-called hartal in protest against the NIA crackdown, has prompted a section of the community to rally more strongly round the PFI.
The SDPI has alleged that never before such raids had been conducted in connection with the police probe into a hartal-day violence. “The state government wants to appease the RSS. The raids are targeted at destroying Muslim establishments. It is nothing but the RSS agenda,’’ alleged the SDPI in a statement issued by its Kannur district committee.
The BJP, which is still not a major player in Kerala politics, also senses an opportunity in the NIA’s massive clampdown on the PFI for its polarising politics in the state.
The BJP has maintained that the PFI is a “threat” and that the former would stand with all communities at the receiving end of Islamic fundamentalism. It is expected to use the central agencies’ crackdown on the PFI to communicate to the majority community that “only the Sangh Parivar has the capacity to tackle and curb Islamic fundamentalism”. The saffron party believes that such a campaign could help it garner votes in the coming elections from among a section of the Christian community too, which has traditionally backed the Congress party.
Meanwhile, the ruling CPI(M)’s state secretary M V Govindan said in Kannur that if communal organisations are to be banned, it is the RSS that should be banned first. “The campaign that CPI(M) has nexus with SDPI is baseless. CPI(M) does not have the view that PFI should be banned against backdrop of the present crackdown. If it is banned, the outfit would resurface in other forms,’’ he said.