Communal fault lines widening fast in Kerala

Communal fault lines widening fast in Kerala
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Highlights

Kerala is in the news for all wrong reasons now-a-days. This State was in the forefront of reform, literacy, prosperity and progressive and liberal policies all along – at least in some spheres.

Kerala is in the news for all wrong reasons now-a-days. This State was in the forefront of reform, literacy, prosperity and progressive and liberal policies all along – at least in some spheres.

Of late, it is more getting into the news because of certain extremist forces that have merged with the PFI (Popular Front of India) and SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India) to steer the country towards uncertain times by inflating communal overtones and by injecting anti-Hindu sentiments among young and impressionable minds.

A perusal of the intelligence reports of several State governments and those from Kerala suggests that the PFI is an extremist Islamic organisation in India formed as a successor to National Development Front (NDF) in 2006 and merged with the National Development Front, Manitha Neethi Pasarai, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and other organisations. It has often been accused of involvement in anti-national and anti-social activities by the Indian government. It acquired a multi-state dimension with the merger. The PFI describes itself as a neo-social movement committed to empower people to ensure justice, freedom and security. This is just a facade. In fact, the organisation tries to use all these issues to brainwash people into taking a clear anti-national stand (read anti-Hindu). It does not mind targeting even Muslims who oppose its larger undeclared goals.

The organisation has various wings to cater to different sections of society, including the National Women's Front (NWF) and the Campus Front of India (CFI). Kerala and Karnataka have often witnessed violent clashes between workers of the PFI and the Sangh Parivar.

In 2012, the Government of Kerala claimed that PFI was "nothing but a resurrection of the banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in another form" and imposed a ban on the "Freedom Parade" organised by PFI. The High Court dismissed the government's stand, but upheld the ban imposed by the State government. It recently bemoaned the extremism of the PFI and even asked the government to act fast against the PFI leadership that had taken out a march in which a child was seen and heard raising provocative slogans against Hindus.

There is an increasing demand from various quarters to ban the organisation and apply greater scrutiny to the philosophy of the PFI and its branches. PFI activists have been found with lethal weapons, bombs, gunpowder, swords by the police and several allegations have been made against them for having links with terrorist organisations like Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Still, PFI draws its support from several political organisations including Congress, AIMIM and SP. Other anti-BJP dispensations have a soft corner towards their extremism and blame the BJP and Sangh Parivar and other outfits for the 'reactive' nature of the PFI. Those who do so should know that willy-nilly they are becoming pawns in the hands of the PFI. Similar was the display of affection towards the terrorist organizations active in the Kashmir valley all these decades. Taking a leaf from the Mehboobas' and the Abdullahs' in Kashmir, several political parties keep jumping to the rescue of the PFI. Of course, the more "extremist" the PFI sounds, the better for the 'Hindutva' forces in the country. In fact, the former serves the agenda of the latter unwittingly at least.

But, why is it so that Kerala has become a hotbed of PFI? Is it just a manifestation of the appeasement policies adopted by the political parties for long? One should not forget that Kerala politics has always acknowledged the use of caste, communal and regional elements. The formation of the UDF and the LDF was not a mere political alignment, but it also facilitated a tectonic shift of the communal forces into mainstream politics. A careful analysis of the strengths of these two formations throws open the caste and communal amalgamations.

The mainstay of the Congress in Kerala has always been the Christian community, especially the Catholics, and the support base of the Communists comes from Ezhava and dalits. As for the Muslims, though a section supported the Communists, those who thought themselves to be liberal and nationalistic joined hands with the Congress always. Later, Nairs, Christian and Muslim factions joined hands to support the Congress against the Communists calling themselves democratic forces in 1960 elections under the Praja Socialist Party banner and came to power.

Political researchers point out that during the 1965 elections, with the split in the Communist party (as CPI and CPI (M) and the split in the Congress (as INC and Kerala Congress) the difference grew stronger. Kerala Congress was a Christian regional party. Then onwards one can see the caste and communal overtones taking several turns in Kerala and the splits in various parties and the tussle among the Christian and the Muslim groups taking varied shapes and hues leading to a churn in the Kerala politics. This apart we have three distinct regions in the Kerala politics – Malabar, Cochin and Travancore – which had their impacts on the communal groupings further.

Sunni outfits like Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama and Sunni Yuvajana Sangham campaigned against Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), accusing it of being extremist in the past. SDPI and the PFI leadership have too much blood on their hands. Several CPI (M), Congress and IUML (Indian Union of Muslim League) workers have been eliminated by the SDPI and PFI activists. Weapons training camps are a part of the extremist programme here and the NIA (National Investigation Agency) has blamed PFI and their political outfit for conducting arms training camps across the state under the pretence of health awareness camps and yoga classes.

According to the FIR, the 24 accused in the case were the members of the PFI and the (SDPI). Cases were registered under Sections 143, 147, 153(B), R/W 149 of IPC, Section 5(1)(a) r/w 25(1)(a) of Arms Act, Section 4 of Explosives Act and Section 18 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of the Indian Penal Code. When videos of SDPI murders come up on channels, the party does not mind owning it up as a measure to safeguard its members. Yet another argument is that it's an emotional response. In addition, we notice mutual complimentary murders of the SDPI/PFI and the RSS nowadays.

The surcharged communal atmosphere in the country does not help control the situation as the local players (of politics) in Kerala and those who have been in power on and off don't see anything wrong in seeking the support of the SDPI and the PFI.

Polarisation on the communal lines is happening everywhere but in a State like Kerala, where the tone and tenor of the differences is already high, fault lines are getting more profound. This is a State where caste and communal politics have become inherent to the political DNA. It is the same DNA that developed an imbalanced approach in keeping a watch on the communal tinge turning into extremism. Let us also not forget that Kerala is a State which has contributed a good number of fighters to the ISIS.

The governments of the day should have checked the tendency long back. And if they fail to act now, it might be too late. Whole of India is slowly turning into a communal cauldron due to polarization. Only, there are no fairies, only witches working for their spells. Dress code, prayer mode and food choice apart, history, geography and region are all inflicting the maximum damage on our society. These communal forces are thriving on all these by attempting to dictate their whims and choices to the citizens of India.

There is a method to the madness, however. If we look at it closely, it seems some are working to hasten the process of the societal divide. Put a halt to all these forces. History should teach us lessons. Only those who refuse to learn from the past, attempt to rewrite it. What has been undone, has been done so. Don't dig too much. Civilization is what we should strive for. Barbarism and savagery are not to be sought. These are things of the past. Are not they? Belief in the traditional cyclical time should not lead to a fresh cycle of violence and barbarity. The Big Bang is over and we have come out of the primordial soup only to become more civilized, individually and collectively. Samuel Huntington has summarised the state of debate rather succinctly: to be civilized is good, and to be uncivilized is bad (Oxford).

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