The Left government in Kerala says no to any ban on the Popular Front of India despite CPM’s student activist Abhimanyu’s brutal murder.

 

It is almost a fortnight after the gruesome murder of a Students Federation of India activist at the prestigious Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam, Kerala. The police have identified the murderers as belonging to the Islamic fundamental organisation Popular Front of India (PFI), its political outfit Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and its student’s wing Campus Front. More than 600 workers belonging to these organisations have been taken into custody across the state in connection with the murder, but the police suspect the real murderers have fled the country. There are talks of approaching Interpol even as more arrests continue. However, many doubt whether the ruling Left Front government in Kerala has the political will to crack down on the organisation and arrest those who killed 20-year-old Abhimanyu. In the past, whenever the Centre raised the question of banning PFI in the state, the ruling CPM and opposition Congress conveniently sat over the matter, with the BJP accusing them of going soft on the organisation. With the latest murder of an activist belonging to its own student wing, clearly by those belonging to the Islamic organisation, the CPM was expected to take the initiative in banning the organisation. But it seems the party is not ready to do so even though there is a clear case for such a move. For, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has once again reiterated that his government was not in favour of banning any organisation, but instead will “deal with such forces strongly”.

“It is not the Kerala government’s policy to ban any communal or terrorist outfit. If any outfit that creates riots in India and divides society on communal lines needs to be banned, then it should be the RSS. Such organisations cannot be countered with a ban and this has been proved by our experience in the past,” Pinarayi has said. “This is our stand as far as PFI goes. The threats that such communal and terrorist organisations pose and their ideology cannot be obliterated through a ban,” he added. According to him, the only way to counter such organisations was to take strict legal action against them. He further claimed that his government had taken strict measures against communalism and terrorism and the results were evident in the prevalent law and order situation in the state. But the government is reportedly against slapping UAPA against those accused in the Abhimanyu murder case. Hence the CM will find it difficult to substantiate his claim that his government was doing everything to check their activities. Even after LDF came to power in 2016, there have been no attempts to curb the activities of fundamental organisations. After the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was banned in 2001, the organisation continued to function undeterred in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka with different identities. Popular Front emerged in its present avatar when Karnataka Forum for Dignity, National Development Front, Kerala, Manitha Neeti Pasarai, Tamil Nadu, Citizens Forum, Goa and Nagarik Adhikar Suraksha Samithi came together in 2006. Its political arm, SDPI, has been very active in the state since then. Campus Front too has been making inroads into many colleges in the state.

Most of those who were active in SIMI reportedly hold important positions in all these outfits. The organisation made its mark when in 2010 its activists chopped off the right hand of a college professor in central Kerala for allegedly preparing a derogatory question on the Prophet. This was followed up by organising an armed training camp in Kannur and the murder of an RSS leader in Bangalore. On a rough estimate, NDF-PFI-SDPI combine is responsible for the murder of at least 31 people between 1995 and 2018. Only in March this year, the Chief Minister alleged in the Assembly that RSS, PFI and SDPI were imparting arms training to their cadres at places of worship. But strangely, he has all along been silent on police action against such illegal activities. Muslim League and CPM accuse each other of patronising Islamic fundamentalists. CPM uses them to counter the growth of League in Muslim dominated districts of north Kerala. After the murder of Abhimanyu it has been reported that CPM do share power with SDPI in many local bodies in the state. CPM however brushes these aside as canards spread by political rivals. But in the recent byelection in Chengannur, CPM had openly solicited votes from SDPI. There have been allegations that SDPI workers had campaigned for CPM there. In the past, CPM had propped up Peoples Democratic Party chairman Abdul Naser Madani, one of the main accused in the 2008 Bangalore bomb blast case. Madani, at one time, was known as the rising Bhindranwale of the South. Both LDF and UDF had always taken a lenient attitude towards radical elements in the minority community. Both have tried to shield them in order to protect their respective Muslim vote banks. It is time mainstream political parties in Kerala realise the dangers of playing minority politics for short-term gains. This applies to student politics too. However, it is strange that SFI is keeping a low profile even after the killing of one of its “comrades”. Had CPM been in opposition Kerala would have witnessed a series of violent student protests. Perhaps that is the price even a student organisation has to pay for being subservient to a political party.

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