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Ban on Islamic Organizations Draws Mixed Reactions in India

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The Indian government’s ban this week of the People’s Front of India (PFI), an Islamic organization that says it fights for minority rights, has drawn mixed reactions in the country, with Hindu groups welcoming the move and Muslim groups, opposition leaders and rights activists who criticize him.

Hours after India’s Home Ministry on Wednesday issued a ban on PFI, accusing it of “terrorism” and “anti-national activities”, the organization said in a statement that it was dissolved.

While PFI leaders say the charges against it are baseless, the government insists the organization poses a threat to the country’s internal security.

PFI leaders say the organization fights for the rights of minorities and low-caste Hindus.

However, an official journal that published the ban notice said the PFI had been involved “in serious crimes, including terrorism and its financing, [and] gruesome targeted killings. »

“There is evidence that the group has a connection to the international terrorist group ISIS,” the notification reads, in perhaps the most serious accusation against the PFI. ISIS is an abbreviation for the Islamic State group.

“Our top leaders have always condemned ISIS – we can present media reports as evidence. The accusation that the PFI had a connection to ISIS is ridiculously false,” said a PFI leader based in Kerala to VOA on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

“All the charges against the PFI will be found to be false if the court judges the cases correctly.”

Welcoming the PFI ban, the Chief Minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state of Assam tweeted: “Government is firm in its resolve to ensure that anyone with evil, divisive design or disruptive against India will be dealt with an iron fist. Modi Era’s India is decisive and bold.”

In a statement, the Social Democratic Party of India, the political wing of the PFI, called the ban a “direct blow to democracy”.

“Freedom of expression, protest and organization has been ruthlessly suppressed by the regime. … The regime abuses investigative agencies and laws to silence … voices of dissent,” the statement said.

Muslim community leader and former chairman of the Delhi Minority Commission, Zafarul-Islam Khan, has denounced the PFI ban.

“There is no evidence in the public domain of the involvement of the PFI or its allied organizations in illegal activities. If an individual belonging to one of these organizations commits a crime, he must face action individual. His organization should not be punished for his crime,” Khan told VOA.

The PFI has come to irritate the current rulers because it has built a strong cadre organization across India to work and fight for minority causes and upliftment, he said.

“Such an organization is seen as an obstacle to the Hindutva’s dream of transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra [Hindu Nation, in Hindi]. Thus, for several years, the PFI and its allied organizations have been the target of the current leaders of the country. »

India’s Home Ministry did not respond to VOA requests for comment.

In August in Varanasi, some right-wing Hindu groups released a draft constitution of a Hindu Rashtra which proposed that Muslims and Christians living in India would not have the right to vote or be counted as citizens.

SR Darapuri, a former senior officer in the Indian Police Service who now works as a social and political activist, said the decision to ban the PFI appears to have been taken “prematurely”.

“When the organization was charged with such a serious charge as terrorism, the matter should have been thoroughly investigated and taken to court. Now the organization was banned before the terrorism charge has been proven in court,” Darapuri said. says VOA.

“In this situation, the ban appears to be a politically motivated and biased decision.”

Supreme Court lawyer Mehmood Pracha noted that several Hindu supremacist groups are urging “open revolt against the Indian state by seeking to replace the country’s constitution with one based on Hindu scriptures”.

“The government does not find the actions of these groups illegal. One can therefore only view this action with doubt that the reason for banning the PFI is not based on their alleged terrorist and anti-national activities,” Pracha told VOA.

The opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), or CPI-ML, said the PFI crackdown was aimed at stoking anti-Muslim passion.

“In the criminal cases against the PFI, except for a few summary allegations, there is no reference to an actual criminal incident. The crackdown is a conscious attempt by the Modi government to spread Islamophobia among the public and to demonize Muslims, as a community,” CPI-ML Secretary General Dipankar Bhattacharya told VOA.

“The actions against the PFI are manifestly discriminatory, given the impunity granted to various (Hindu right-wing) organizations and individuals openly calling for anti-Muslim genocides and rapes, and turning India into a Hindu Rashtra. “

The PFI crackdown is a pretext for a massive witch hunt against Muslims, says feminist activist Kavita Krishnan.

“The charge brought by the NIA [National Investigation Agency] that the PFI conspires “to communitize the political system of the nation and to encourage and enforce [the] Taliban Islam is only a pretext to harass Muslims by accusing them of being members of the PFI.

“The NIA has released the real Hindu supremacist terrorists who have staged several terror outbursts. Saffron-clad men and women (right-wing Hindus) openly call for violence against Muslims,” ​​Krishnan said.

“But they are not being investigated or charged by the NIA for attempting to ‘communautarize the polity of the nation.'” The actions against the PFI appear to have their roots in bias ( community) anti-Muslim.”