India’s authorities late final month banned the In style Entrance of India (PFI) and affiliated organisations for 5 years, accusing the teams campaigning for Muslim rights of involvement in “terrorism”.
Authorities additionally arrested dozens of members of the 9 outlawed organisations after conducting raids throughout the nation.
The organisations have denied any hyperlinks to armed teams and dubbed the motion by the Hindu nationalist authorities a “witch-hunt”.
Critics have stated that little proof has been offered to tie the teams to violence, including that the federal government has been ignoring the violence dedicated by Hindu far-right teams – a cost the federal government has denied.
Al Jazeera spoke to Irfan Ahmad, professor of sociology and anthropology at Ibn Haldun College in Istanbul and an skilled on Indian politics and Islamist events in India. The interview beneath has barely been edited for brevity and readability.
Al Jazeera: Who’re the teams banned by India’s authorities and what was their agenda?
Irfan Ahmad: The PFI is an organisation that campaigns for points going through marginalised teams, particularly Muslims. Nevertheless it has made alliance with different marginalised teams equivalent to Dalits, girls, Adivasis (the Indigenous communities) and different non secular minorities. Eight different organisations reportedly linked to PFI have additionally been outlawed. The PFI was primarily lively within the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka, however the group additionally has a presence in different states.
The PFI’s structure requires establishing “an egalitarian society the place freedom, justice and safety are loved by all”. It’s vocal towards the marginalisation of Dalits, tribals, religious-cultural minorities and ladies. Actually, the group stands for nationwide unity, secular order, rule of regulation and true democracy. The PFI additionally takes a agency stand towards the neo-liberal mannequin of growth and “ecological destruction”.
Whereas the media calls the PFI an “Islamic outfit”, its 24-page structure mentions neither Islam nor Muslim. However in follow, the PFI raised points going through Muslims.
Al Jazeera: What are the fees levelled towards the PFI?
Ahmad: In its notification (PDF), the federal government accused the PFI of indulging in illegal actions which hurt “the integrity, sovereignty and safety of the nation”. The inside ministry additionally accused the PFI of “pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a specific part of society” -read Muslims – and for hyperlinks to ISIS (ISIL).
Al Jazeera: What proof did the federal government current?
Ahmad: The notification is titled “extraordinary”; so is the anti-terror regulation used to ban the PFI, the Illegal Actions Prevention Act or UAPA. UAPA defines “terrorism” sweepingly to incorporate nearly all the pieces underneath the solar. Because the notification itself says, the ban relies extra on the federal government’s opinion than on strong proof. However an opinion could be sheer prejudice.
The federal government lists many allegations for the ban however presents no clinching, goal proof. This isn’t to say that PFI members didn’t bask in violence. They did. There may be the infamous case of PFI members attacking a Kerala professor in 2010. However the PFI condemned the brutal assault and distanced itself from the attackers.
Such assaults in Kerala or elsewhere are additionally carried by different events, together with Hindu far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its political affiliate and the ruling BJP. In 2019, a PFI member was killed, for which the police arrested three RSS members.
Nevertheless, the notification lists solely instances of Hindus or RSS members attacked by PFI. Notably, political violence in Kerala isn’t unique to the PFI. Actually, the overwhelming variety of instances of political violence includes the members of Kerala’s ruling communist celebration and the BJP.
Additionally, almost 50 p.c of members within the present Parliament face felony expenses. The query is: Why media or the federal government name the homicide of a Hindu “terrorism”, however the homicide dedicated by a Hindu merely against the law?
The federal government justifies the ban within the identify of countering “terrorism”. The actual fact is kind of the alternative. To cover the reign of terror unleashed towards Muslims and others, the federal government is creating the bogey of the PFI’s “terrorism”.
The present reign of “terror” is clear, for example, within the lynching of Muslims in daylight; their homes bulldozed whereas Hindus applaud it; sporting a hijab or having a beard vilified; and radicalised Hindus calling for genocide towards Muslims.
This reign of terror is integral to RSS-BJP’s agenda for an ethnic Hindu state as laid down by Hindu ideologues like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar.
Their ideology is derived from European fascism. Because the PFI opposed fascism, to ban it’s hardly stunning.
What the mainstream media has whitewashed is the PFI’s dedication in its structure to fight “neo-colonial, fascist and racist forces”. Which celebration apart from the PFI has such an agenda? And if there may be one, how honest is it in pursuing it?
Al Jazeera: Are you suggesting the ban was politically motivated?
Ahmad: Certainly it’s political. If the mere allegation of terrorism turns into the idea of banning the PFI, the explanation to ban the BJP is stronger. Its member, Sadhvi Pargaya, was jailed for 9 years for her function in terror assaults. Although now on bail, she continues to be on trial underneath the identical antiterrorism regulation used to ban the PFI.
The federal government justifies the ban, saying that some PFI members have been leaders of the Scholar Islamic Motion of India (SIMI), which was banned after the 9/11 assaults within the US. However the authorities is but to show its cost of terrorism towards SIMI.
Now the outdated fiction of SIMI terrorism is getting used to legitimise a brand new fiction, of PFI as a terror organisation.
Going by the federal government’s personal logic, if the hyperlink to a beforehand banned outfit is sufficient to outlaw a present organisation, it’s extra logical to outlaw the RSS as a result of it was banned twice up to now – in a single occasion it was banned in reference to the homicide of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and lots of ministers in his cupboard are members of the RSS.
Al Jazeera: Are Muslim organisations being singled out?
Ahmad: No celebration, together with the Left, opposed the ban, the notification of which refers to Muslims as a particular neighborhood getting radicalised.
It refers to Hindus as individuals of different faiths and underneath assault. The depiction of Muslims as an enemy is obvious. Such a divisive politics naturally leads to Muslims being singled out, significantly those that, invoking the Structure and human rights, assert for equality and dignity.
Many Muslim scholar activists and neighborhood leaders have been jailed for criticising the federal government’s Hindu majoritarian agenda and protesting towards the 2019 anti-Muslim citizenship regulation that the UN known as “essentially discriminatory”.
The PFI was one key group that rallied towards the ethnic citizenship regulation. Refusing to simply accept the second-class standing, the PFI wished Muslims to be handled as equals.
In his ebook on PFI and based mostly on lengthy fieldwork, German sociologist Arndt Emmerich describes the PFI as a voice preventing for “full citizenship for Muslims and different minorities”. He additionally information how Hindu activists held that India ought to deal with Muslims the way in which Israel treats Palestinians.
Clearly, the federal government, which critics see as working for a Hindu state, will silence voices like PFI’s that contest the violence of ethnic democracy and ask for unqualified equality.
Al Jazeera: Can this be in comparison with the US “conflict on terror”, because of which Muslims and their organisations have been usually falsely implicated?
Ahmad: The parallel between crackdown on Muslims in America after 9/11 and the one in India is chilling. In lots of respects, the terrorism discourse in India is sort of a photocopy of Western discourse on terrorism.
Sweeping anti-terror legal guidelines have been used to focus on Muslims with full disregard to “due course of” and the rule of regulation.
In each the US and India, politicians and media usually depict “terrorism” as a risk to democracy. Nevertheless, it’s conveniently forgotten that the lives of so many voters and non-citizens have been “terrorised” within the identify of democracy and by the supposed upholders of human rights and the rule of regulation. Even when acquitted by courts, the beforehand jailed “terrorists” and their relations proceed to dwell in a state of “terror” such that associates, kin and civil society activists “preventing for” democracy choose not have any relation with them.
On the earth’s largest democracy, Muslims are publicly flogged whereas the group cheerfully chants Hindu slogans.
Have a look at the latest case of the police brutally flogging Muslims males, whereas the group watches on with applause. That is in Gujarat – Modi’s dwelling state. Is that this how democracy treats its Muslim residents?