Defending the front

In Kerala, the Congress has fallen back on one of its most cynical and tired ploys playing Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan's remarks on the Popular Front of India as a slur on all Islam. Achuthanandan, who said that the Front aimed at the "Islamisation of Kerala", was backed up by his biggest party rival, Pinarayi Vijayan.

Of course, the CPM has some role in nurturing this monster it has earlier used the PFI to divert votes from the Congress-allied Indian Union Muslim League. However, there isn't a shred of doubt that the PFI, or a significant strand of it, is an extremist and violent organisation that has not let go of its SIMI antecedents. Through the '90s, after the Babri Masjid demolition polarised India, the PFI (formerly the National Development Front) grew and tightened its grip it specialises in acts of shocking brutality, like the incident when it hacked off the hands of a Malayalam lecturer in Idukki, for supposedly insulting the Prophet in an examination paper. It has a repressive social agenda, from demanding headscarves in Christian schools to moral policing, along with a media mouthpiece and softer outreach activities. In northern Kerala, where it is locked in fierce competition with the RSS and the CPM, it has developed a neat line in political intimidation. That it seeks to impose its social ideology on Kerala's Muslims is a clearly visible fact.

However, now that the CPM seems to have temporarily left its internal disagreements aside for a concerted stand against the PFI, it finds itself attacked by the Congress and Muslim organisations, for insensitivity towards Kerala's Muslims. However, as Achuthanandan pointed out, the Left's strong opposition to the Sangh Parivar is not construed as an attack on all Hindus. To smear valid criticism of a radical and violent variant like PFI as targeting an entire community is to abet criminality, and worse, to do the community a great disservice, and ensure that it is conflated with these extremist groups, in the rhetoric and imagination of those who are really anti-Muslim.

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