PATNA—Though the Popular Front of India (PFI) has announced its dissolution and a legal battle to pursue after getting banned by the ministry of home affairs of the government of India, it has prompted many to ask for a ban on RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) which is said to be the parent organization of the ruling BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) at the Centre. There are also demands for revoking the ban on PFI, while some Muslim organizations have welcomed this ban.
RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) chief Lalu Prasad is at the forefront of asking for a ban on RSS. He stated that PFI is being investigated. “Ban all such organizations, including RSS. There should be uniformity. There should not be anything signalling that only Muslim organizations are being targeted. They (RSS) had made Durga Vahini also. RSS was banned earlier too”, said Lalu. He repeated, “Ban all such organizations simultaneously and take action if anything objectionable is found.” He elaborated that a bogey of PFI was being created. He asked, “Sabse pahle RSS ko ban kijiye. Ye usse bhi badtar sangathan hai” (Ban RSS first. This is a worse organization.)
It might be reminded here that it was Bihar where the current actions against PFI started around July 12 this year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bihar, which led to the banning of it. First, the local Phulwari Sharif police registered the case on inputs from IB, but the case was handed over to NIA (National Investigation Agency) by the union home ministry without taking the Bihar Police in the loop.
Since then, the Communist Party of India- ML (Liberation) has maintained that this was an attempt to intimidate the Muslim community. In a fresh statement, it condemned the ban on PFI, asking why RSS and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) are not banned. Its state secretary Kunal said in a statement that banning PFI was a conscious attempt to spread Islamophobia among the public and vilify the Muslims as a community. He said, “This ban is a pre-planned political action to torture Muslims collectively.” He alleged that RSS and its affiliated organizations had been given a free run to ask for the genocide of Muslims and act against the Constitution.
The president of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party Janata Dal-United, Lalan Singh, asked the central government to explain the basis for banning PFI. Zaman Khan, the minority welfare minister of Bihar termed the banning of PFI as an act aimed at political gain. He said, “To target one particular organization is not good.” Another senior JDU Shrawan Kumar member asked to ban both RSS and BJP.
PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), while asking for the revocation of the ban on PFI, recalled its fact-finding conducted by its Bihar branch, which said, “prima facie no arms training, terror activities or radicalizing youth was being undertaken in Phulwari Sharif area of Patna district.” The report also deplored the vilification by the media of the Muslims living in Phulwari Sharif. For instance, the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar repeatedly called “Phulwari Sharif”, the sacred garden “Aatank ki Phulwari” or the Garden of Terror. They concluded that the Bihar police’s charges were baseless. The media built up the false narrative of terror in support of the Bihar Police’s fabrication of the FIR and false arrests.
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said in its statement that “The CPI(M) has always condemned the violent activities of the PFI. However, the notification of the PFI as an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is not the way to tackle this problem.” It asked to fight and expose PFI’s “sectarian and divisive ideology” politically. The statement further said, “The PFI and the RSS have been engaged in killings and retaliatory killings in Kerala and coastal Karnataka, vitiating the atmosphere to create communal polarization. There are also extremist organizations like the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, elements of whom have been implicated in the killings of noted secular writers and personalities.”
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh did not name either PFI or RSS but said in the same context, “Congress party has always opposed all communalism—majoritarian or minoritarian; based on colour, type or nature. We have zero tolerance for communal organizations who spread hatred, who spread violence & who spread prejudice.”
Indian Union Muslim League leader M K Muneer supported the ban on PFI and asked for a similar ban on RSS. According to the Times of India, Mr. Muneer, a member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly from Koduvally, said, “The PFI not only tried to mislead the young generation but also tried to create division and hatred in the society.” He alleged, “Outfits like PFI have made even tiny children raise contemptuous slogans” and asked, “Which Islam has persuaded them to do so?”. He termed PFI as a “radical organization” and alleged that it had “misrepresented the Quran and persuaded the community members to adopt the path of violence.”
Congress and IUML are partners of the Opposition coalition in Kerala, where PFI’s political wing, SDPI, has a strong presence. Observers have expressed surprise over sparing the SDPI from the ban. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Chief Asaduddin Owaisi stated, “While I’ve always opposed PFI’s extreme & radical approach, I’ve always supported the democratic approach. This ban on PFI can’t be supported as the actions of some individuals who commit crimes doesn’t mean that the organization itself must be banned.”
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) President Syed Sadatullah Husaini opposed the ban on PFI. The JIH President said that banning an organization was neither a solution nor did it suit a democratic society. He added, “To ban an entire organization on flimsy and unsubstantiated grounds is unjustified and undemocratic.” He pointed out, “Recently, we have witnessed many fringe and radical groups openly indulging in hatemongering and calling for violence. These groups operate with impunity, and no action is being taken against them. Hence, the ban appears selective, discriminatory, and biased. It will increase the trust deficit between people and the government and send a wrong message to the country. Therefore, we demand that the ban be revoked at the earliest.”
Eminent Islamic scholar Zafar-ul-Islam Khan called the day banning PFI “a black day.” He said that PFI had done nothing illegal. He declared PFI as a legal, open & registered organization unlike RSS, Bajrang, Durga Vahini, VHP, Sanatan Sanstha, etc., which he alleged “are secretive, unregistered bodies spending trillions on their activities, yet no action against them. Some like Bajrang and Sanatan Sanstha have proven records of terror activity but no action. Central govt sits since long on Maharashtra govt request to ban Sanatan Sanstha.”
Muslim Students’ Organization Of India (MSO) which calls itself “Apex Students & Youths Body of Indian Muslim” declared, “Ban on PFI and its organizations are reasonable.” MSO, which claims to be ‘working on Promotion of Sufism & Inclusive India’ in a press release issued by its media department, asserted that it was time that the Indian youth shunned extremism and adopted true Islamic Sufism.
Taslim Ahmed Rehmani, former SDPI leader and a frequent TV panellist, supported the ban on PFI and wrote on his Twitter account, “SDPI and PFI cadre, members, leaders may please unfriend, block and unfollow me from all my social accounts.” His Twitter account now says he is “President of Muslim Political Council of India.” He also wrote, “PFI has strangely dissolved itself within hours of ban orders.”