After the ban: The political challenge posed by PFI still needs tackling | 29th September 2022 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What is the article about?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) for a period of five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Relevance:

  • GS3: Internal Security; Prelims

What is the crux of the article?

  • Banning the PFI is only one aspect of the challenges posed by such extremist outfits. PFI also represents a militant strand of political Islam that draws money, cadre and,
  • most importantly, legitimacy, by exploiting the fear among a section of the Muslim minority amid the rise of majoritarian agendas. That is a political challenge, which must be addressed politically.

Analysis:

  • The MHA notification says that “the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organisation but they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country”.
  • But both the ban and the disbanding of the organisation are unlikely to mark the end of the  political challenge that the now-erstwhile PFI continues to pose.
  • Investigating agencies claim to have unearthed unaccounted funds and linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
  • Shutting down PFI’s funding network and arresting their leaders may help to counter the security challenges posed by the outfit. But the PFI is much more than a security threat: It also represents a militant strand of political Islam that draws money, material, cadre by exploiting the resentment and fear among a section of the Muslim minority amid the rise of majoritarian agendas and their perceived support by the state. That is a political challenge, which must be addressed politically.
  • It will require mainstream parties to confront the increasing relegation of Muslims in public life, and call out rights abuses by state agencies — for instance, the often opaque and extended incarceration of Muslim youth under laws like the UAPA.
  • The impression has also gained ground among sections of the community that many mainstream secular parties are more interested in patronising the minority as a vote bank than standing up for their Constitutional guarantees. The PFI and SDPI, the electoral arm of the PFI, have exploited distrust and/or disillusionment to push their ideological footprint.

Way forward:

  • A ban may only force cadres underground. It cannot be — it should not be — the whole response to the gauntlet thrown down, in a diverse democracy, by an outfit like the PFI. What follows the ban, and how the state goes about the due process while implementing it, will frame the challenges that lie ahead.



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