Gujarat, UP and Karnataka had sought a ban on PFI, reveals MHA notification

Former IPS officers on Wednesday voiced mixed opinion on the ban, with some pointing out that the ban on the RSS as many as four times did not work

The Ministry of Home Affairs headquarters in South Block of Central Secretariat
The Ministry of Home Affairs headquarters in South Block of Central Secretariat

Ashlin Mathew

The government of India released a gazette notification early on Wednesday morning banning the Popular Front of India (PFI), and its front organisations including its student wing, the Campus Front of India (CFI), for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). There have been mixed reactions to the ban.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has also banned its associated organisations such as Rehab India Foundation (RIF), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.

The notification stated that investigations have revealed clear linkages between PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts. However, the government has not banned what is generally considered as PFI’s political arm, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).

The ban came about after a national crackdown on PFI where police teams across seven states (UP, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi) conducted raids and detained over 270 people with alleged links to the organisation.

The MHA stated that Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat state governments had recommended a ban because in the absence of an immediate ban, the group, the three state governments argued, continue its subversive activities, disturbing public order and undermining the constitutional set-up of the country; encourage and enforce a terror-based regressive regime.

Pointing out that it was not a question of Muslim or Hindu organisations, former UP DGP Prakash Singh, who retired from the IPS 10 years before PFI was formed in 2006, justified the ban saying these were subversive organisations, which wanted to break up the nation.   

PFI should have been banned five to ten years ago, added Singh, who also served as the chief of the Border Security Force (BSF). “The day they chopped off the arm of Professor TJ Joseph in Kerala in 2010, is when everyone should have realised about this snake of an organisation. They should not have been allowed to grow and spread their network to this extent,” maintained Singh. The most notorious case involving PFI was the brutal attack on college lecturer TJ Joseph in 2010 over a question paper prepared by him. PFI activists chopped off his right hand.

Another former UP DGP Vibhuti Narayan Rai, however, questioned the lenient attitude of the government to other similar organisations, which have publicly called for genocides and engaged in violence.

“Everyone knows these organisations I am referring to engaged in what can be called anti-state activities. Hopefully, at some point they will be permanently banned. However inaction in banning these organisations cannot justify similar inaction towards PFI,” asserted Rai. He felt the PFI was doing a disservice to the Muslim community the most.

Former chief of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), PK Hormis Tharakan believes that the underlying reasons for the growth of such organisations ought to be tackled first. The sense of being victimised and unfair treatment that certain sections of the community may be having need to be addressed. It is a sense of discrimination and injustice, correct or imagined, that fans the growth of dangerous ideologies, he pointed out.

Banning organisations hardly ever work, pointed out academic and writer MN Karassery, adding that Hindu terrorism cannot be checked by Islamic terrorism. It can only be checked by a secular democracy. “I do not agree with the ideology of PFI, where they talk about the liberation of India through Islam. However, I believe in democracy and I don’t believe in banning organisations,” noted Karassery.

In a democracy, ideas should be tackled by ideas. RSS was banned in India four times. Once by the British in January 1947 in Lucknow province. After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi In 1948, RSS was again banned on February 4, 1948, by the union home ministry headed by Sardar Vallabhai Patel. Then they were banned by Indira Gandhi during the 1975 emergency.  In 1992, after the Babri Masjid demolition, RSS was banned again. The PV Narsimha Rao government had banned the RSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Even though it was banned four times, was there any use of the ban, asks Karassery? Even when banned, organisations can stage a come-back with some other name, flag and slogan. Several leaders of PFI were part of SIMI and SIMI was banned in India thrice.

Tharakan, who was also the former Kerala DGP, underscored that during his service PFI did not exist. “SIMI was banned when I was DGP Intelligence in Kerala and we did provide a great deal of inputs, which led to the ban. The banning of the organisation provided us with the legal tool to arrest and prosecute its members. But banning, in my experience, is only a one-time solution,” maintained Tharakan.

It is well-known that Indian Mujahideen grew from the embers of SIMI. Hence, the government needs to be fully aware that banning is only a step that helps to forestall outward display of protest and dissent.

Though the PFI seeks social and economic justice and political representation for Muslims, Dalits and tribals, its ranks are filled with radical Muslim men who espouse the need for gaining political power through the use of their religious tenets.

Banning such organisations, Karassery believes, will add to the sympathy that will be generated for these organisations. “They will use sympathy in their favour. These organisations indulge in criminal activities. Punish them using the laws prevailing in India. If they are going to kill or beat someone, use the necessary sections of the law.  We have enough laws to deal with criminal activities,” he added.

Political reaction to PFI ban

Equating PFI with RSS, Kerala MP and Congress chief whip in Lok Sabha Kodikunnil Suresh said the BJP's ideological mentor RSS should also be banned as it has been spreading Hindu communalism. “We demand the RSS also be banned. Both RSS and PFI are equal, so the government should ban both. Why only PFI?” asked Suresh.

AICC general secretary in charge of communication Jairam Ramesh said, “The Congress Party has always been and will continue to be against all forms and types of communalism–majority, minority makes no difference.”

The Politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) stated that the PFI and the RSS have been engaged in killings and retaliatory killings in Kerala and coastal Karnataka, vitiating the atmosphere with a view to create communal polarisation.  There are also extremist organisations like the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, elements of which have been implicated in the killings of noted secular writers and personalities.

The raids on PFI are a conscious attempt by Modi government to spread Islamophobia among the public and demonise Muslims as a community, stated Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation.

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    Published: 28 Sep 2022, 8:04 PM