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`Create broad-based alliance of all oppressed sections'

Special Correspondent

Empower India Conference of Popular Front of India ends

Conference passes nine resolutions `PFI was never against Hindus or Hinduism'

Bangalore: The three-day Empower India Conference organised by Popular Front of India (PFI) concluded here on Saturday with a mammoth public meeting at the Palace Grounds in which over 30,000 people participated.

The meeting, which began with a rendering of Iqbal's "Sare jahan se accha", passed nine resolutions, including a demand for "equitable sharing of Cauvery waters", united resistance to the "saffronisation of Bababudangiri", naming the Bangalore airport after the 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan, rebuilding of the Babri masjid, and reservation for Muslims in jobs and educational institutions.

Delivering the presidential address at the conference, PFI chairman E. Abubacker underlined the need for creating a broad-based alliance of all oppressed sections, including the minorities, Dalits and backward classes, to ensure equal share in the development process.

Making a distinction between "Hinduism" and "Hindutva", he said his organisation was "never against Hindus or Hinduism". "We can't equate Gandhi with those who killed him," he said.

Moulana Mohammed Wali Rahmani, secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, cited findings of the Sachar Committee report to say how large chunks of the minority community had been alienated from the mainstream.

"The report is a mirror that shows the country its true face," he said.

Delivering the keynote address, Hodari Abdul-Ali, Afro-American social activist and journalist, said the assault on civil liberties in the U.S. had resulted in the formation of broad coalitions. He called upon Indian Muslims to build alliances with other groups such as Dalits in the "interest of equality and true democracy".


Alan Hart, British journalist specialising in West-Asian affairs, said that he had unlearnt many stereotypes about the oppressed classes in the course of making a film on global poverty.

When he asked a very poor woman what she most wanted in life, she had told him, "Education for my children so they don't have to live like animals as we do." The poor woman had opened his eyes to the truth that access to formal education is the key to the development of the potential of each individual.

The other speakers at the conference included K.M. Sherief, president of Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD), and journalist Gauri Lankesh.

The gathering consisted largely of young men from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In keeping with the linguistic composition of the crowd, speeches were made in Kannada, Urdu, Malayalam and English.