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PFI and the rising Islamic fundamentalism in TN

Chennai, Oct 1 (BPNS)

The National Investigating Agency (NIA) in an early morning swoop on September 22 arrested 11 functionaries of the Islamist outfit, Popular Front of India (PFI) from several places in Tamil Nadu. This includes A.M. Ismail, the national executive member of the PFI who was apprehended from Coimbatore. The Dindigul Zonal President of the outfit, Yassar Arafat, and the Cuddalore district secretary of PFI, Fayas Ahmad were also arrested on September 22.

Many parts of Tamil Nadu including Chennai, Coimbatore, Dindigul, Kanniyakumari, Tiruchi, Erode, and Salem are considered the hub of the Popular Front of India which was formed on November 22, 2008 in New Delhi after the merger of the National Development Front (NDF) of Kerala, Karnataka Dignity Forum (KDF) and Manitha Neethi Pasare (MNP). While the Popular Front of India has professed that it was for the upliftment of Dalits, Backward Classes, and Muslims, in reality, the organization was for the Muslims only with a high dose of Islamic fundamentalism filled in it.

Two incidents of violence that were the handiwork of Islamists in Tamil Nadu stand out when any discussion on Islamic movements and their violent nature are discussed. The first and most  gruesome is the chain of bomb

Tamil Nadu has seen two major incidents of violence by the Islamic fundamentalists, one the Coimbatore suicide bomb blasts carried out against a public meeting of then Deputy Prime Minister and BJP leader L.K. Advani. The blasts took place on  February 14, 1998, in which 58 people lost their lives and more than 200 grievously injured. The serial bomb blast was organized by Al Ummah which was led by S.A. Basha, a timber merchant from Coimbatore who turned into an Islamic fundamentalist. He was also involved in the attack on BJP leader, Jana Krishnamoorthy and Hindu Munnani leader Ramgopal. They were brutally assaulted but survived.

Much before the Coimbatore bomb blasts, the RSS Tamil Nadu headquarters in Chennai was bombed in which 11 people lost their lives and 7 grievously injured. It was S.A. Basha who was again the main culprit in this serial attack also.

These are the two major issues on which, the Popular Front of India could bank in Tamil Nadu as the state was in a polarized mode between Hindus and Muslims. Popular Front of India took this to the next step with several RSS, and Hindu Munnani activists getting killed and grievously injured in these brutal attacks.

Ramalingam, a native of Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district was killed on February 5, 2019, allegedly by the Popular Front of India and Social Democratic Party of India activists. The NIA in its charge sheet said that the reason for the murder was that he was involved in their religious propagation activities. The PFI was to terrorize people against anyone interfering in the work of the organization and hence the murder, NIA further said. On July 18, 2014, KPS Suresh Kumar, a Hindu Munnani leader who was the Tiruvallur district president of the outfit was hacked to death by Popular Front activists.

Chartered Accountant  Ramesh who was the state general secretary of the BJP was brutally killed by Popular Front activists on July 19, 2013, by banging his head on the wall and breaking his arms and legs, and later slitting his throat. Police found 23 cuts and a mutilated head.

According to a senior officer with the Tamil Nadu police, around 130 Hindu activists were killed by Islamist fundamentalist outfits in Tamil Nadu over the years with the Popular Front being the main culprit in all the recent murders.

It may be noted that the Manitha Neethi Pasarai or Human Justice Forum which had merged into Popular Front of India when it was formed along with the National Development Front (NDF) of Kerala and Karnataka Dignity Forum (KDF) of Karnataka was involved in several attacks and killings in Tamil Nadu.

V. Ratnasabapathy, an Assistant Commissioner of the Intelligence department of the Tamil Nadu police had reported in August 2006 that  Manitha Neethi Pasarai had terror links. Five youths belonging to the outfit were arrested a month before with IED explosives and weapons and on interrogation, they had revealed the plot to blow up Coimbatore General Hospital, Collectorate, and even the district superintendent of the police office in Coimbatore.  The MNP later leaked out information that of the five, two were neo-converts at their centre, Arivagam in Muthuthevanpatti near  Theni.

In 2020 Tamil Nadu police arrested 35 youths from Periyapattanam near Coimbatore for spreading hatred and religious extremism among Muslim youths in radicalizing camps. Police said that they were members of the Popular Front of India.

Dr. R. Umesh Das, a Professor of Social Sciences at a Government college in Tiruchy and a researcher on Islamic fundamentalism while speaking to BPNS said,” The ban on the PFI will lead to its assets being seized and its accounts frozen. However, the ideology cannot be wiped out but the ban if effectively implemented can crush the organization. They must not be allowed to regroup and take the ideology forward. Police can now crack down on all its sources, both funding and ideological.”