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Heat rising over Kerala rally, PFI in no mood to backtrack on ‘campaign against RSS’

The People's Front of India in Kerala raised the Kashi temple-masjid row and has taken the lead among Muslim community on issue.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: May 31, 2022 12:59:32 pm
The controversial slogans raised by a minor boy during a rally by the People's Front of India in Kerala has brought into spotlight a campaign it has been running for the past six months called 'Save the Republic'.

The controversial slogans raised by a minor boy during a massive rally by the People’s Front of India (PFI) in Alappuzha last week has brought into the spotlight a campaign it has been running for the past six months called ‘Save the Republic’. Meant to ensure “Muslims the rights envisaged in the Constitution”, among other topics, the campaign has now evolved into a full-blown offensive against the RSS.

The PFI, facing cases over the rally, has disowned only the wording and style of the slogans raised, not the content – with the belief in PFI circles being that “RSS terrorism” needs to be strongly countered.

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PFI state president C P Muhammed Basheer told the media: “We are not ready for any compromise. The RSS cannot silence the PFI. Let the RSS denounce its ideology of hate.”

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He also said that Muslims in the country were “fighting for existence”, and that neither the CPM-led LDF nor the Congress-led UDF could put up a strong fight against the RSS. “Our fight is to protect Constitutional values and rights. Recent developments show that the country is in the final stages of being declared a Hindu Rashtra,” he said.

After police booked two PFI leaders, including its Alappuzha district president Vandanam Navaz, in connection with the Alappuzha rally, the PFI held protests across many locations in Kerala. On Saturday, police took away the father of the boy who raised the contested slogans from their residence in Kochi. The father told the media his son “had taken part in agitations against the CAA and the slogans were against the threat created by the Sangh Parivar, and not against any community”.

Over the past 15 years, the PFI has assumed many roles in the state, such as of a social crusader, moral police, and champion of Muslim and Dalit causes. The emergence of the Sangh Parivar has lately helped it project itself as the only Muslim answer to it. The alternative, the Indian Union Muslim League, still the largest political party of Kerala Muslims, treads a more moderate line being part of mainstream politics and an ally of the Congress.

The PFI’s enmity with the RSS goes way back in Kerala, with the body and its earlier version, the National Development Front (NDF), and the Sangh Parivar involved in a series of killings and counter-killings. The NDF, in fact, was launched two years after the Babri Masjid demolition, and the issue has remained central to the PFI. It marks the December 6, 1992, demolition every year, among the only Muslim organisations in Kerala to still do so.

Now, the PFI has taken the lead on the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque row, which has resurfaced following a series of court petitions. It has been telling the Muslim community that its warnings regarding the intentions of the Sangh have come true, and that the Babri demolition was just the start of what was to follow. PFI leaders admit they see the issue getting much resonance among the Muslims.

No Muslim outfit or leader in Kerala has incidentally publicly reacted on the Alappuzha slogans.

Worryingly for Kerala, the rise of the strident PFI is correspondingly fanning Islamophobia among its Christian community, which in numbers and political clout is as strong in the state as the Muslims. Various Christian churches came out with strong statements criticising the slogans raised at the Alappuzha rally.

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The gulf between the two communities is now the widest ever in Kerala, more so than even 2010, when a Christian college professor’s right palm was chopped off by PFI men on charges of insulting Prophet Mohammad.

While the LDF and UDF weigh their words, mindful of their vote banks, the ground is also getting cleared for the BJP. If the PFI claims to be the only legitimate Muslim voice, the BJP was notably the only vocal “Hindu voice” on the Alappuzha rally.

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