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As Clamour to Ban Popular Front of India Grows, Here are 5 Reasons Why It's Unlikely to Happen

The outcry to ban Popular Front of India (PFI) is gaining momentum since the gruesome murder of a 20-year-old member of the Students Federation of India (SFI) in Ernakulam Maharaja’s College on July 9.

Chandrakanth Viswanath | News18

Updated:July 14, 2018, 11:20 AM IST
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As Clamour to Ban Popular Front of India Grows, Here are 5 Reasons Why It's Unlikely to Happen
A ban on PFI now would mean endorsing the BJP-RSS stand, which the Pinarayi Vijayan government cannot afford to be seen doing. (File photo/PTI)
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Thiruvananthapuram: The outcry to ban Popular Front of India (PFI) is gaining momentum since the gruesome murder of a 20-year-old member of the Students Federation of India (SFI) in Ernakulam Maharaja’s College on July 9. However, a ban on the 12-year-old Muslim outfit, powered by think-tanks from Kerala and with influence in at least 16 states, will not be easy.

CPM Policy

The ruling party considers the role of both the PFI and the RSS to be communalisation of the society. Many of its leaders equate both the outfits as two sides of the same coin.

“It is not the (Kerala) government’s policy to ban any communal or terrorist outfit. If any such outfit needs to be banned for creating riots and dividing the society on communal lines, then RSS should be the first. However, such organisations cannot be countered with a ban. This has been proved by our experience in the past and it is our stand with the PFI too,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said on February 15.

The CM’s statement was a reaction to Union Minister Kiren Rijiju’s claim at the annual DGP conference in January that the state had sought a ban on PFI and the Centre was considering it.

Strength and Support

The PFI once boasted of more than 40,000 members but the numbers dropped after 2010 when its activist allegedly chopped off the palm of a college professor in retaliation for “blasphemy”.

Still, with a current strength of 25,000 cadre and more than 3 lakh sympathizers, the PFI is a force to reckon with. Out of the 140 Assembly constituencies in Kerala, PFI’s political wing, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), has a vote share of more than 10,000 in at least 20 and more than 5,000 in 20 others, polling between 300 to 3,000 in the rest.

After the SFI member’s murder, the CPM was quick to deny association with the SDPI, but it’s apparent that it enjoyed the support of PFI’s political wing. In the state's bipolar politics, where even the smallest of vote shares can decide the winner, no party would be in a position to reject a vote bank.

Whipping up Muslim Sentiments

With its “anti-fascist, anti-BJP” posture, the PFI has made deep inroads into secular platforms of the Muslim community. In such situation, any action initiated against the PFI can be perceived to be anti-Muslim, denting election prospects.

Advantage BJP

The BJP and Sangh Parivar have long been demanding a ban on PFI, citing the 2010 palm chopping case, alleged forced conversions and radicalisation. A ban would mean endorsing the saffron stand, which the Left cannot afford seen to be doing a year before general elections.

Will it be Effective?

The state government and police have serious doubts on whether such a ban on PFI will be effective since at least 15 organisations are associated with it. According to officials, PFI cadre could always band together under some other form to skirt the ban.
| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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