On Wednesday, the Congress and the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala called for a ban on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) amid the Centre’s massive crackdown on the Popular Front of India (PFI). CPI(M) state secretary MV Govindan commented that a ban on the extremist organisations in the country cannot be based on a particular religion.
He said that the RSS and other radical outfits are equally responsible for “spreading hatred” in the country, and that banning only one radical organisation will not help to wipe out extremist ideology. “They will come back with different names and ideologies,” Govindan further stated.
Accusing the RSS of being involved in violent incidents in the country, the Kerala leader added, “When you go by the logic of banning all communal outfits, the RSS comes first.” The central government, on Wednesday, officially banned the PFI for five years, citing that the outfit was involved in organising terror camps and encouraging Muslim youths to join in terror activities.
The investigating agencies and the police arrested more than 250 people across the country, allegedly associated with the PFI, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Following the massive crackdown by central agencies, PFI’s associate organisations, including the Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CFI), 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, have also been banned.
Meanwhile, when most of the regional parties maintained silence over the ongoing action against the PFI, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav said that if the PFI is banned then the RSS should be as well.
“First of all… ban RSS, it is a worse organisation than that. RSS has been banned twice before. Remember, RSS was first banned by Iron Man Sardar Patel,” tweeted Lalu Yadav.
The Congress has welcomed the Centre’s action against the PFI and said that the party’s stand will be continued against all forms of communalism, whether it pertains to the majority community or minorities.
Without mentioning the RSS, AICC general secretary in charge of communication Jairam Ramesh said in a statement: “Congress’s policy has always been to fight uncompromisingly all ideologies and institutions that abuse religion for polarising our society, that misuse religion to spread prejudice, hate, bigotry and violence.”
He further added that this fight is of utmost priority to preserve, protect and celebrate the secular and composite construct of our society and nationhood.
Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah also urged the central government to ban all extremist organisations regardless of the case and religion.
“I reiterate what I have been saying that the state government should take action regardless of the organisations involved in illegal activities, be they Hindu or Muslim,” Siddaramaiah tweeted.
The RSS, which was formed by Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925, is the parent organisation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since the RSS came into existence, it has faced three bans for its alleged role in violent activities across the country.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the former home minister of India, was the first to ban the RSS in 1948, following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse. Sardar Patel had said that the RSS is a clear threat to the existence of the government and the State.
The second time, it was banned by former prime minister Indira Gandhi during the 1975 emergency. The third ban on the RSS was imposed by the Congress’ Narasimha Rao government in 1992, following the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Why Did The Government Ban PFI?
The Ministry of Home Affairs has directed all the states and UTs to take action against the Popular Front of India and its associate organisations. Following the order, the central agencies have raided and sealed hundreds of PFI offices in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Assam.
The Centre, in its statement, said that the action against the PFI and its associates was taken as it found proof of illegal activities of the radical organisation. The government believes that the PFI is a threat to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country, has the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony, and supporting militancy in the country.
The statement also cites that the government has found the PFI and its affiliates’ involvement in global terror activities. IT claimed that some of its members were sent to Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to join Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
It further claims that the group has alleged links with banned Islamist groups such as the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and ISIS.
The Popular Front of India, which has a strong presence in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, came into existence in 2006. The PFI claims on its online platform that it’s a socio-economic and cultural organisation that helps the poor and disadvantaged people in the country.
The PFI, which has thousands of volunteers or cadres in more than 20 states in India, came into the limelight in 2010 for the first time, after an attack on a Kerala college professor by its members.
Recently, PFI members were allegedly involved in the Udaipur tailor’s beheading case in June, with regard to the Nupur Sharma controversy.