March 3, 2024

Qazi Mizan: India has begun a crackdown on a local Muslim political organisation that has often been regarded as a counter to Hindutva groups such as the RSS. Over 100 leaders of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were detained in different cities on Tuesday in what the group referred to as harassment, a “witch-hunt” and “prevention of the right to democratic protests”, while the Uttar Pradesh government — run by hate-mongering BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath — claims the actions against PFI members were because of “violent acts conducted by them and their rising anti-national activities across the country”. Several PFI members were also arrested in Assam, which is also run by the BJP and where the CM has been calling on New Delhi to ban the group outright.

Raids and arrests on PFI locations and members have also taken place in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over the past month. In those raids, the group was accused of organising training camps to “commit terrorist acts” and involvement in “anti-national activities”. It is no surprise that the federal National Investigation Agency conducted those raids, since only one of the states — Karnataka — is run by the BJP. Over the last decade or so, the BJP has gone from a right-leaning party to a fascistic one, and labeling all of its rivals, and even its critics, as “anti-national”. In fact, the term has become a badge of honour for many BJP critics who any objective person would be hard-pressed to call anything but patriotic Indians.

In the case of the PFI, while the group is most certainly conservative and has some problematic ideological positions, its “anti-national” behaviour has largely been limited to supporting street protests against the BJP and some of its most draconian legislative moves. In fact, the actual charge-sheets against them include accusations of using the internet to draw attention to government policies and provoking people to defy the government, which is the literal description of a non-violent protest in the vein of Mahatma Gandhi. But then, the Hindutva movement also considered Gandhi a traitor.

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