While the State government and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hailed the ban on Popular Front of India (PFI), opposition Congress also welcomed the ban but with some caveats, triggering a row.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the demand to ban PFI and its affiliates was long-pending and political parties across the spectrum, from CPI (M) in Kerala to Congress, had been demanding for the same. He described PFI “as mutants of the proscribed organisations Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD)” and alleged the now-banned organisations had no respect for the law and Constitution and that they had carried out several violent acts “based on orders from outside India”.
Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, who last week during NIA raids was the first to say this was a step towards banning the organisation, welcomed the ban and said this was much needed for national security.
‘Act without prejudice’
Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah said he would only reiterate what he had been saying for long that the State government should act against any organisation indulging in illegal activities irrespective of its religious association.
“I hope the government acts without any prejudice against any religion,” he tweeted. Responding to media persons, he also said while he welcomes the ban on PFI, he demanded that “action must be taken against organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and others which were also disturbing peace in the society,” triggering a political row.
Chief Minister Mr. Bommai hit back at Siddaramaiah and said RSS was a “nationalist organisation” carrying out various social service and educational activities. “This only shows these people are related to organisations like PFI. Do you need any more evidence than the very fact that he [Siddaramaiah] withdrew cases against members of PFI?” he asked.
Congress leader Tanveer Sait, who was allegedly attacked by a PFI member, termed the ban on PFI a “political gimmick” in the run-up to the elections to polarise voters. Mr. Bommai hit back against him too, saying Mr. Sait was himself attacked by PFI member and had demanded action against PFI. However, Mr. Sait said while the government claims he was attacked by a PFI member, the chargesheet filed by the police did not mention the organisation.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress tweeted clips of Sangh Parivar leader Satyajith Suratkal alleging Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), closely associated with PFI, was supported by BJP leaders and asked why has there been no action against SDPI, even as PFI and SDPI are two faces of the same coin.
SDPI distances itself from PFI
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), a political party that has often been closely linked with Popular Front of India (PFI), sought to distance themselves from PFI on Wednesday.
Abdul Majeed Kodlipet, President, SDPI - Karnataka, said it was a misconception that SDPI was the political arm of PFI. “We are an independent registered political party not associated with any other organisation,” he said. However, when quizzed on SDPI members also being members of PFI, he said now that PFI has been proscribed by law, the party would ask any of its members to disassociate themselves from PFI immediately.
However, SDPI condemned the ban on PFI and other organisations. “It is unconstitutional and a clear election toolkit of BJP for the upcoming elections for vote polarisation. It is very clear that this is a part of an agenda to target and criminalise Muslim organisations,” Mr. Abdul Majeed said.