The Southern Jihad - Studying an Islamist takeover

by Aravindan Neelakandan - Aug 5, 2013 08:57 AM +05:30 IST
The Southern Jihad - Studying an Islamist takeover

Indian Jihad has found in South India an ideal base for operations. A network of democratic cover-up organizations has been created to shield the Jihadist capacity building. The pattern is in the sudden upsurge in preparatory Jihad activities with inter-state and international links which result in increased arrests but poor conviction rates. In parallel to this process allegedly democratic and social groups are built with oert as well as covert jihadi connections, the overt and covert nature depending upon the friendliness of the state government in question.

Thus the latter half of the year 2006 and the year 2007 saw an overall increase in Jihad related activities in South India. While in Kerala the foreign Jihad forces were enlarging their network, in Bangalore the North Indian Jihadists were creating links. Soon both the forces will have a common platform through a link organization.

Let us consider some events:

  • In August 2006, 18 Islamists belonging to proscribed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) conducted an indoctrination-Jihad camp in Binanipuram near Kochi. The seized materials included a book titled ‘Mass Resistance in Kashmir’, published by the Institute of Policy Research in Islamabad, along with political maps of India with Kashmir left out and other documents with anti-national exhortations. The book was taken from the library of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the organizational mother of all fundamentalist Islamist forces. The organization made the usual customary protest.[1]
  • It was not a coincidence that the absconding aeronautical engineer CAM Basheer, a former SIMI president and a major logistics provider for Islamic terror hailed from the same area. He was an accused person in the 2003 bomb blasts at Mulund near Mumbai. Basher handles 50 fronts of SIMI and their funding through his network. Clearly the SIMI meeting was not only a camp but also regrouping for the launch of a new strategy for Southern Jihad. The SIMI activists who were arrested by the Kerala Police from Binanipuram were later let off without a proper perusal of the case thanks to political pressure. 
  • There were cases where the arrests showed inter-state linkages mainly between Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In November 2006, two Pakistanis terrorists were arrested in Mysore. Mohammed Fahad, one of the two had come to Chennai and had obtained fake driver’s license from a driving school staying at his ‘uncle’s’ house. His ‘uncle’ Mohammed Koya was from Kerala.[2]
  • On January 1, 2007, two Lashkar –e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists were arrested in New Delhi. They were fleeing to Chennai after they had failed in their mission to plant bombs at overcrowded New Year party functions in the capital. The two LeT men revealed that they were going to Chennai to meet some LeT operatives, who are active in south India.[3] In a week the Special Task Force (STF) from New Delhi was at Chennai and their findings revealed that the LeT men had been to Chennai before and had established contact bases in South India far from the probing eyes of mainstream counter-terror with its center of gravity in North India .[4]
  • On January 6 2007, Bilal Ahmed Kota alias Imran Jalal alias Salim was arrested in Bangalore. He had scouted the top IT establishments and observed their security arrangements for LeT. [4] The grenades seized from him were similar to the ones that have been used in ‘Indian Institute of Science’ (IISc) attack earlier in 2005.[5]
  • Meanwhile at Bangalore 20-Jan-2007 following the US hanging of Saddam Hussein. The Reuters reported: “Muslims protesting against the execution of Iraq’s toppled president clashed with police on Friday, ransacking shops owned by Hindus and burning at least 15 cars.” [6] A more detailed account of the attack was given by vernacular ‘Dina Tanthi‘ a Tamil daily known for its neutrality: “Many of the youths who participated in the march condemning the Saddam execution, entered the houses and shops in the Timmaiah road. They humiliated the women entering the houses. They also tried to desecrate a famous local Goddess temple.”[7]

The above incidents centered on Bangalore and Chennai. They were connected the Jihad which was being waged in North India. The foreign connection mostly came from Pakistan.

  • On 9th January 2007, in a Karachi-bound ship and originating from Dubai, customs officials at Cochin Kerala, accidentally discovered that ship containment meant for a Muslim businessman, one Koya at Tiruchur district in Kerala, contained along with furniture boxes, weapons. What was interesting was that copies of Koran were found with every box of ammunition. [8] This is a vital indicator that the Jihad in South India is being handled by professional groups with international backing. In recruiting Uzbek Mujahedeen to fight Afghan Jihad, one of the psychological strategies perfected by CIA- was the shipment of Koran along with supply of weapon.
  • CIA and Jihad planners discovered that shipment of Koran copies worked better than the usual Western tactics of using atrocity stories in the case of recruitment for Afghan Jihad.[9] Similar pattern of placing Koran as part of every ammunition package in 2007 shows that the brains behind the planning of these South Indian operations are Jihad veterans with international expertise. A concerned Indian Naval Chief Sureesh Mehta stated gravely on the closing session of an international seminar on maritime trade and security that the Cochin seizure might only be the tip of the iceberg of the nefarious activities.[10]

It is in the background of these incidents that one should see the formation of Popular Front of India (PFI). It was officially formed on 2007 by merging many state based Islamic bodies from Kerala’s ‘National Development Front’ (NDF) to Manipur’s ”Lilong Social Forum’. However the main functional components of PFI are Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) of Tamil Nadu, NDF of Kerala and Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD). And it was launched during a seminar and rally secularly named ‘Empower India’.

MNP was already running a magazine in Tamil called ‘Vidiyal Velli’ (Dawn Friday) and in Kerala ‘Thejas’ (Radiance). This was started in January 2006. The articles in the magazines advocate a radical Islamist and pro-Kashmir separatist stand, often calling the Jihad terrorists of Kashmir as ‘fighters’.

‘Q’ branch officials did not miss the SIMI connection in the launch of PFI. They noticed that majority of the leaders belonged to banned SIMI. [11] From then onwards in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka the Jihadist networks have an Islamist cover-up exploiting every inherent weakness of the pseudo-secular nature and vote-bank politics of Indian polity.

2008: Kerala exports Terror with Political help

The aftermath of the arrest in the August 2006, SIMI training-indoctrination camp is in many ways typical of what happens in most of the cases against Jihad capacity building at the early stages. The FIR was filed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Five were arrested and the rest were released free. Even these five – Ansar Moulavi, Shaduli, Nizamuddin, Abdul Rafeeq and Shamas- were set free on bail. Then on 13 May 2008 Jaipur the capital of Rajastan became the target of a serial bombing similar to Coimbatore bomb blast.

Nine synchronized bomb blasts within a span of fifteen minutes left 63 dead with 216 or more people injured. Among those arrested were Shaduli and Ansar Moulavi. During the investigations it was found that the duo had also attended two more terror camps at Vagamon, in Kerala’s Idukki district, in December 2007 and January 2008.[12] In January 2008 a Kashmiri terrorist Altaf was arrested in Kerala. He was given a false SIM card by an agency at Trivandrum and the terrorist had also talked to his contacts in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.[13]

On July 26 2008, serial bomb blasts at Ahemadabad killed 53 people and injured over 200. Once again Kerala as well as Karnataka connections came up during investigations. The main accused was trained at Wagamon SIMI training camp. The home minister of Kerala then, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, openly admitted that the state government was under “pressure” to set the SIMI men free. In a very blunt confession made by the Home minister before the press, the CPI(M) leader stated that the Jihadists were operating in Kerala. But their main activities were outside the state. He stated that there was a hue and cry from human rights activists accusing the government of targeting the minorities when police action against SIMI.[14]

In October 2008 two Kerala youths were killed in an encounter by Indian army at Kashmir. SIMI had not only been rebuilding but also recruiting the youths for Jihad outsourcing them to various parts of India to execute terror projects. According to the IB, SIMI fronts had become strongest in specific pockets of Kerala and had been providing modules for Jihad not only in various parts of India but also abroad.[15]


‘Popular Front of India’ takes over from SIMI

In July 2009, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) was formed as political wing of PFI. It was headed by E Abubacker, who was the Kerala Zone president of SIMI in 1982-84. PFI has many frontal organizations for specific target groups like Campus Front of India (CFI) for college students and National Women Front (NWF). Though formed in 2007 PFI came to prominence only with the chopping of the head of a Christian professor in July 2010. However that did not mean the PFI or its Kerala constituent NDF had been silent all those years. The then Kerala home minister in his statement proclaimed that the outfit had been involved in 22 murder cases and 73 attempt to murder cases.[16]

The July attack prompted the government to undertake a statewide raid on various offices of PFI as well as SDPI. The raids revealed a stock-piling of arms and ammunitions at the offices of PFI/SDPI.[17] V.S. Achuthanandan, the then Kerala Chief Minister talked in detail about the plans of PFI for Kerala which according to him included making Kerala a “Muslim-dominated” state within 20 years. He stated that the outfit was investing money to radicalize the youths and give them weapon training. [18]

India Fraternity Forum (IFF) which projects itself as an organization to help Indians in the Gulf countries is based in Saudi. According to an intelligence report submitted to PMO, this organization has been helping the funding of PFI activities. [19] IFF has hosted a series of meetings by SDPI leaders at Gulf countries. On January 2011 Nasarudhin Elamaram, National Committee Member of SDPI addressed a gathering organized by Kuwait India Fraternity Forum (KIFF).On October 2011 IFF at Emirates hosted Aboobacker, national president of SDPI for his campaign to promote 2011 rally of PFI at New Delhi. These are just a few instances of different chapters of IFF extending support to PFI and SDPI.[20]

Curiously another source of steady income to PFI had been the government advertisements in their media. Though the Union Home Ministry has warned the government of the anti-Indian and communal nature of ‘Thejas’ publications as early as 25 November 2009, in a confidential communication, on October 2010, NP Chekkutty, Executive Editor of Thejas boasted to Tehelka – a pro-Islamist magazine (which produced a half-empathetic and half-critical story on PFI) that in the past financial year PFI got more than Rs 80 lakh as revenue from government advertisements alone. It was only on 14-May-2010 that Kerala government briefly stopped the advertisements only to be continued again in a few months.[21]

The government machinery itself had been infiltrated by Jihadists and the incompetency of state machinery was compromising the state security heavily. A home ministry report had stated that a senior IPS officer meeting some people with terrorist links in Qatar. Though the officer in question had been suspended when he was IG (Kannur) some months back for allegedly making a foreign trip without government permission, as prescribed by the service rules and suspended before in a case relating to amassing wealth disproportionate to known sources of income, he had been reinstated thanks to the dragging of the case by the vigilance.[22]

PFI provides the vital link between the terror-master minds across the border and reaching out to the Muslim population and radicalizing them. PFI also has a battery of human rights activists and lawyers at its command and pay who are pressed into service to secure the release of their arrested cadre. All these services provided by PFI are used by Jihadists effectively. It is a highly effective symbiotic approach to thwart or vitally delay any attempt by the police to stop the investigations etc. This is demonstrated in the case of Himayat Baig, who was arrested as the master-mind behind the German Bakery blast in Pune which was executed on February 13, 2010. He had joined PFI and was trained in the methods of indoctrinating youth and the techniques to deal with police interrogation. His primary job was to recruit and send local Muslim youths for Jihad training in Pakistan.[23]

Even as evidence mounted for the PFI-LeT (Lashkar e Toiba) links the Kerala police in September 2010 informed the High Court that they were investigating the possible links. The same police weeks before has revealed that LeT militant, Tadiyantavide Nasir, had stayed at the PFI’s district office in Ernakulam.[24] Yet despite the statement of the Chief Minister who was also the polit bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the political equations including the vote bank considerations made the Left Front government soft pedal the issue of banning the outfit by neither seeking the ban nor opposing it. The responsibility was passed on to the Centre even as passing the cases to NIA was opposed.[25]

Even as this political buck passing with terror-accused happened, PFI through SDPI demonstrated how to use Indian democratic system to further the Islamist cause. In October 2010, one of the accused in the hand-chopping case was made to stand the election in SDPI ticket for the block panchayat division in Ernakulam in the civic body elections and the accused won.[26]

For all its high profile pro-Dalit voices PFI makes, Dalits are denied entry into PFI as only Muslims are allowed membership. More crucially PFI was also involved in a Taliban like execution of a Dalit youth. On April 27 2010 the body of a young Dalit worker was found hanging from the terrace of a lodge in Kannanur Kerala. He was tortured severely before death. No less than 22 brutal injury marks were on the body. The veins had been punctured both in his hands and legs and a lot of blood had oozed out. It took six months for the Kerala police to admit in the court that the youth had been tortured to death and the Investigating officer reported that the accused belonged to PFI.[27] On December 2011, in a replay of Marad, PFI and its student wing Campus Front stabbed three Hindu fishermen in Kerala.[28]

On July 2012 Kerala government again submitted before the High Court of Kerala that PFI was ‘a resurrection of the banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in another form’. It also submitted that it was involved in 27 murders.[29] On July 2012 PFI men stabbed to death two Hindu students Sachin Gopal(20) and Vishal Kumar (19).[30] August 2012 revealed additional networking capacity of PFI. Following the riots in Assam which were triggered by attack on Bodos by Bangladesh infiltrators, Islamist forces started a campaign of using terror rumors against the North East students in the state of Karnataka. According to sources in intelligence agencies, the bulk hate messages which originated from servers in Pakistan were received by the cadres of PFI who helped spread them along with the cadres of Bangladeshi Jihad outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI). PFI has as usual denied it.[31]

Even as HuJI-PFI connection gets investigated by the Assam connection to PFI comes from Badruddin Ajmal, whose Islamist party All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) is a political partner of ruling Congress coalition and is strongly pro-Bangladeshi infiltrators. Badruddin had expressed solidarity with PFI/SDPI.[32] Such a political backing of an Islamist party from Assam and logistic network with HuJI can provide PFI the Koranic power to “strike terror into the heart” of the perceived enemies of Islam – like the student communities of North East in the southern states.

On April 23, 2013 Kerala police stormed into the office of Thanal Charitable Trust, one of the many fronts of PFI, in Narath. 21 PFI activists, all in their twenties were caught with human shooting targets, bombs, bomb making materials, gun powder, eight swords, foreign currency notes, Iranian entry card in the name of Sadik Mangalodan to Kish Island free zone and leaflets of PFI and SDPI.[33] The police suspect that the PFI camp activists may have a hand in the Bangalore blast before the BJP office on 17-Apr-2013. Many times Bangalore has been a favorite hiding place for PFI Jihadists when they had to hide from the police in murder cases.[34]

The Bangalore blast may be a calculated risk by PFI in showing their ability to strike. Given the assured defeat of BJP, PFI knows that the Congress government would go soft on the Islamists and Jihadists. Simultaneously Karnataka coastal regions saw a sudden expansion of SDPI. With SDPI becoming politically strong, with Congress in the helm of affairs the PFI striking right at the office of BJP would prove how it could act daringly and yet escape any punishment with its political clout.

As C.D.Souza a political observer from Karnataka points out the emergence of SDPI in coastal Karnataka can very well have the same effect as the rise of AIUDF in Assam where the party helps the cause of illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh leading to frequent clashes which in turn can help radicalize Islamic society. SDPI may do to Karnataka what AIUDF did for Assam.[35] At least one of the arrested PFI activist had his bank account connected with one Sanaulla Shabandri, who belongs to the Bhatkal family, which is involved in the founding of the dreaded Indian Mujahideen (IM). Sanaulla is also a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim.[36]

Another important aspect that is coming to light is the way the Gulf money is being routed to fund PFI Jihadist operations. One of the chief trainers of this camp Abdul Aziz was an accused in the murder of a Hindu activist. The other chief trainer Kamaruddin had escaped from police. A raid in his house has revealed, apart from arms piled in a secret enclosure, some vital details about Jihad financing. Funds from the Emirates National Bank of Dubai had been transferred according to the documents (which include bank account numbers) seized during the raids.

The probe has revealed that another PFI man had operated at least nine bank accounts in his name and other family members for receiving more than Rs.80 lakh from a non-resident Indian in Dubai. The funds had been transferred through Western Union as deposits of lakh to multiple accounts to deftly escape the surveillance of the Financial Intelligence Unit functioning under the Union Ministry of Finance. The pattern of funds transfer shows that repeated transfers were done to a few persons from banks in West Asia. A preliminary investigation shows PFI involvement in real estate. [37]

It may be pertinent to remember that the murder of Vellore BJP functionary Dr. Arvind Reddy has been concluded superficially as real estate conflict. Also it should be remembered that India Fraternity Forum operating from the Gulf regions was active in hosting SDPI leaders campaigning for their mega-Indian events in Dubai and other Gulf countries. According to sources, the camp raid has also revealed that the PFI has a highly structured and multi-layered approach. The training has a special ‘Encounter Group’ for combat training; a ‘Legal Cell’ to provide basic legal awareness to counter police interrogation at the starting phase, and a ‘harbouring Cell’ for shifting and accommodating them safely and a ‘Media Cell’ for propaganda.[38]

However the decision to hand over the case to NIA and taking decisive actions against PFI are still tempered by political considerations. Now Congress lead UDF is ruling and CPI(M) LDF is in opposition. LDF Home Minister had openly acknowledged the political pressure during their regime in taking action against terror training camp and oscillated between shelling out Government advertisements to PFI media which formed significant revenue of the organization. Now the opposition LDF has revealed the same attitude in the ruling UDF in tackling PFI terror. PFI has used all Islamist political parties including IUML to make the ruling coalition go soft on PFI.

The radical Islamist organizations had lent their support to IUML in the last Assembly election and IUML has 20 MLAs and 5 ministers in the present UDF government. This has made UDF government go soft on PFI/SDPI despite the police revelations and also give PRD and PSU advertisements of the Kerala Government to the SDPI/PDI mouthpiece ‘Thejas’, ignoring all the Central government instruction.[39] This is another textbook case of how even as the security agencies of the nation and states are fighting a pitched battle against the Jihadist terror in India, mostly unseen by public eyes, the political leadership of the central and state level security agencies are compromised by the same Jihadist forces through Islamist forces through vote bank politics.

PFI in Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu the situation is even more comfortable for Islamist-Jihadist elements. Already Tamil Nadu has been a focus of many pan-Islamic organizations. As early as 2007 the Tamil Nadu police sources have warned that the misleading calmness in Tamil Nadu was covering a “deep undercurrents of Muslim extremism”. Former zonal presidents of SIMI in Tamil Nadu had started a number of fronts all working with the objective “to establish Islamic rule in India”. Ghulam Ahmed, former zonal [Tamil Nadu] SIMI president, was the founder of the Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP). Jawahirullah, the TMMK leader was a State SIMI president. Another Tamil Nadu SIMI president, S.M. Baucker, was in the top leadership of Tamil Nadu Thouheed Jamat(TNTJ).[40]

Earlier there were some initial conflicts between TMMK and PFI (then as MNP) over cadre poaching. At that time some detailed revelations were made regarding the way MNP radicalizes the Islamic youth through systematic brain washing. [41] However over the next five years the Islamist organizations have bought their peace with PFI. TMMK has joined the PFI-led national alliance of Muslim groups and parties.[42] By 2011 a pro-PFI TMMK with its own political party, has now a presence in Tamil Nadu legislative assembly.

In 2008 though police declined permission the High Court bench at Madurai granted permission to PFI parade. In 2009 the annual parade which PFI conducts as a show of strength and intimidation led to conflicts between TN police and PFI Jihadists.[43] In 2010 February Tehelka magazine executive editor Ajit Sahi delivered a speech in Madurai PFI held a two day camp and exhorted PFI cadre to continue their fight.[44]

In Tamil Nadu PFI could conduct camps similar to the ones in Kerala with far more ease. On June 2012 Tamil Nadu police booked 30 PFI cadres who participated in the PFI camp held at Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu near the famous Hindu pilgrimage spot Rameshwaram. Later, they were released on bail. Incidentally the MLA of Rameshwaram was jawahirullah of TMMK. The agencies in Tamil Nadu alerted the state Special Branch after they found that cadres from Assam, Bihar and Kerala took part in the camp.[45]

Since the Bangalore Bomb blast it has been found that PFI had been running camps in several places in Tamil Nadu, from where the main accused in the case hailed.[46] According to Karnataka police the Bangalore bomb blast were masterminded in Kerala and carried out by a chain of persons based in Coimbatore. Explosives were reportedly seized from raided houses in Coimbatore.[47]

In a classic coordinated move a human rights organization National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) had started the campaign that their ‘fact finding committee’ had found that the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police had fabricated evidence against 11 Muslims arrested in connection with Bangalore bomb blast.[48] Such human rights fronts are part of the PFI operations.

Seemingly secular and even including many leftists and anti-Indian activists with Hindu names, these human rights organizations are actually part of the PFI’s larger project of using democratic institutions to weaken democracy and create an Islamist state. For example in the case of NCHRO the state secretary, NM Siddique was one of the two arrested PFI men by Kerala police in 2010.[49] PFI has also taken an active role in supporting the anti-nuclear movement in Tamil Nadu. This has helped PFI to link itself with Tamil nationalist separatists.[50]

This is in line with Saudi Arabian lobby which is said to be funding anti-nuclear movements in other countries.[51] SDPI has also started working closely with VCK a militant Dalit party whose supremo Thirumavalavan endorsed the Mayoral candidate of SDPI in Chennai electoral elections. [52] Even as PFI has been accused of involvement in the Taliban style execution of Dalit youth in Kerala, in Tamil Nadu the VCK does not hesitate in associating itself with PFI/SDPI.

However given the fact that VCK is a major ally of DMK coalition, this alignment can help SDPI to gain enough political clout to influence the police monitoring of the Jihadist activities of its cadre. Already a series of attacks on Hindu leaders are happening in Tamil Nadu and bases of Jihadist activities are being created in areas like Melapalayam, some coastal areas in the east coast of Tamil Nadu and Coimbatore. PFI/SDPI with its political clout can enhance the capacity of Southern Jihad exponentially.

V Kalathur: A case study of how radical Islamism functions in Tamil Nadu

V Kalathur is a village in the Veppanthatai block of Perambalur district in Tamil Nadu. The village witnessed severe communal tension between Hindus and Muslims in the months of January and February 2013. Immediately a group of professional fact-finding teams consisting of well-known pro-Islamic intellectuals and activists with ultra-left persuasion went to the place and came out with a fact-finding report which was circulated widely in the net in many Islamist websites and by Islamist bloggers.[53] A summary of the views of the fact-finding committee was presented recently by Prof. Antony Marx a rabidly pro-Islamic human right lobbyist:

Four days back we were in V.Kalathur, a village in Perambalur dt., 26 kms away from it. Muslims, Hindus and Dalits are living in this village peacefully for the past many centuries. Trouble started three decades back when a part of a common property in govt puramboke land used by both Muslims and Hindus for their festivals was unlawfully occupied by the Hindus. Now a permanent Hindu structure is there and some temple cars are also standing in front of it. The district administration didn’t do anything to prevent it. We came to know this problem only a few weeks back when we happened to see a news item in the papers that a section of the Muslims of that village handed over their family cards to the district collector protesting against the administration’s actions and inaction on this matter.

Their main demand is that no Hindu processions be allowed in their streets since those who come in the processions use abusive words against Muslims and even throw stones over them and as well on the mosque. The district administration as well as the Hindu organisations say that as citizens they have every right to march in procession in any route in Indian soil. The district collector even quoted A25 of our constitution in this regard. We had to point out to the collector that of all the freedoms enshrined in our constitution, it is only the freedom of religion that is defined with some restrictions. Freedom of religion, according to our constitution is a limited freedom. You can practice and propagate your religion only up to the limit that it does not affect the public safety and peace.[54]

Hence a group of concerned citizens which included the current writer decided to make a detailed study of the situation.

A localized issue:

We discovered that it was essentially a local dispute over a common place held as sacred space by both Hindus and Muslims (who worship at Dargha of a local Sufi shrine: something anathema to the puritanical Islamists). In the aforesaid village the Hindus are a minority at 5150 and Muslims number 5600. The place in question refers to the area referred to as 119/1 in local land survey and has an area of 0.31 hectares. The usual method of resolving the dispute between the two social groups is through village level peace committee meets. In 1951 there was a peace committee meet and both sides resolved the dispute by allowing the Hindus to have their temple-ceremonial car there. This is a wooden structure at least four-five centuries old with nice wooden carvings.

Enter Palani Baba

A riot like situation developed during the years. 1990 was the first recorded Islamist objection to the temple procession. Even this objection was not of religious nature but disguised in secular excuses. Some Muslims argued that the ‘Royal path’ or ‘Raja Veethi’ now had new house structures which made chariot procession unsafe. But then the municipal engineer studied the concerned road and provided certificate that both the road and the chariot were safe for the chariot ceremony. Hindus made a compromise and settled for a very small chariot. In 1984 with the permission of the district administration and acceptance of both sides the small chariot was made and this is clearly stated in the report of the government official dated 10-1-1985.

Actually in the period of 1951-1984 there has been no problem after the initial claims by both communities. Then there has been riot like situation in the village between the years 1984-1990.

The reason is not far too to seek. The extraneous factor which created the situation was Palani Baba – the convener of All India Jihad Council (AIJC) who asked the Muslims to burn the chariot and the Muslim leaders to shun the peace committee meetings. Palani Baba ridiculed those who attended the peace meeting from both the sides and harshly attacked the officials arranging the peace meet. His speech was circulated among Muslims through a magazine Al-Mujahid dated 15-7-1990. On 18-7-1990 Hindus were petitioning the Chief Minister for protection citing the speeches of Palani Baba.

Yet the local wisdom and syncretic traditions prevailed. Hindus and Muslims were wise enough to arrive at a compromise. The local bonds created by centuries of co-existence have created such behavioral patterns as a prominent Muslim citizen of the village offering first respects to the Deity and Hindus offering worship at local Sufi shrine. Our fact finding team has recorded the memories of such bonding. So even during the 1992 Hindus and Muslims lived in this village without problems and Hindu processions as well as Muslim festivals went on without mutual conflicts and with mutual cooperation.

Enter PFI

The current round of problems started with radical Islamist organizations taking root in the area. In 2009 a Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhakam (TMMK) functionary in a petition to the district collector demanded that the place where Hindus keep their temple ceremonial car be converted into a public toilet. While both Hindus and Muslims have been adhering to the code of not using the area for any of their other activities than the ones agreed upon in peace committee agreements, Popular Front of India (PFI) violated this by placing a 20 x 15 digital banner with radical Islamist provocation.

As a result of this violation by PFI the village RDO took action and initiated an inquiry on 5-1-2012. 20 Hindus and 19 Muslims participated in this inquiry and in the end though all Hindus and majority of Muslims agreed to the settlement arrived at in the inquiry, some Muslims of PFI persuasion walked out. Most of the people we talked to agreed that the problems started when PFI supported Islamists took over the local Jammat.

Violence against the Hindus

After these events throughout 2012 all conventional Hindu processions in the main street were objected by Muslims. Going through the peace committee documents the fact finding committee could see that reasons are being invented by Muslims to stop Hindu processions. For example on 11-Dec-2012 Muslims objected to Hindus taking the usual Ayyappa Swami procession in the main street stating that in 1990 the house of one Basheer Ahmed was stoned and that the Muslims feared the repeat of the event. The Hindu side has shown that subsequently even during the 1992 and after there has been no untoward incident and hence the fear was unfounded.

Further the Hindu side stated that it was amenable to changes. It pointed out that they had changed even the door of the new structure they were building giving respect to the feelings of the Muslims. Following this Hindu side agreed to certain conditions laid by the district administration which included making no instrumental sounds before the mosque, going peacefully before the mosque etc. Hindu side agreed to all the conditions. Still the Islamists went to the court challenging the permission given by the district administration for the Hindu procession. The court not only refused to stop the procession but directed the police officials to give proper protection to the Hindu procession.

The Islamists now started objecting to even marriage and death processions of Hindus going by the main street. Following this on 21-Jan-2013 a Hindu marriage procession was savagely attacked by Islamists. This led to widespread arrests by the police. The PFI at once started the disinformation campaign that the people coming in the marriage procession raised objectionable slogans and threw stones at the Muslims. However the aforesaid marriage procession was part of the ceremony that involved mainly women and was from the bride’s side. Further given the fact that any riot would lead to the cancellation of marriage which was fixed at 23-Jan-2013, it is simply unimaginable that those coming in that procession would have indulged in violent provocations. The district administration clearly states that the stone throwing was started by Islamists.

Conditions imposed by the district administration on Hindus

Following this the Masi-Maham an important village festival celebrated throughout the rural Tamil Nadu was to be celebrated at the village for which the peace committee was convened. Adhering to the 2012 conditions for the Hindu processions the district administration decided to give permission for the Hindu religious procession on 25-02-2013. This time some additional conditions were added to which the Hindus promptly agreed.

Those new conditions were as follows:

  1. During the Namaz or prayer time of the Muslism Hindus should not use loud speakers and should not have dance entertainments and use fire crackers.
  2. There should be no fire cracker entertainments near the mosque.
  3. When going through the streets where Muslims live, the procession should proceed silently.
  4. There should be no slogans in the procession that may hurt the Muslim religious sentiments.
  5. Cone shaped loud speakers are prohibited. Only loud speaker boxes are allowed.
  6. From 23-Feb-2013 to the morning of 26-Feb-2013, strictly in the area between Siva temple and Ganesa temple alone the Hindus are allowed to have light and sound arrangements.
  7. No digital boards can be placed which may hurt the religious sentiments of the others.
  8. All digital boards should be shown to the district administration and should get prior permission before being placed.
  9. Cone shaped loud speaker should not be used. Box loud speakers are allowed to be placed only in six places, without them causing any disturbance to the Muslims. In all other places Hindus are refused permission to place any loud speakers.

Almost for all festivals such conditions have been imposed upon by district administration on Hindus and Hindus have agreed to these restrictions. Yet the Islamist demand has been to stop Hindus from using the public space and making them subservient to the Islamist forces. Hence Islamists made the next move of instigating some Muslim women to agitate against the district administration by submitting their ration cards to the district collector.

Distortions of Pro-Islamist ‘Fact’ Finding Team:

The ‘facts finding committee’ headed by Prof. Antony Marx a pro-Islamist intellectual makes many distortions, of which some are tabled below:

Distortion of the ‘Facts Finding Committee of Prof. A. Marx et al’.

The reality at V.Kalathur

The central role of the new entrant PFI in the present conflict has been totally ignored. Only one reference is made to the PFI – that too in the passing.

The fact finding team accepts that there was no conflict from 1990 for the next two decades. But the team fails to state what triggered the current riot like situation.

Here it conveniently glosses over the fact that it was the provocation of TMMK in a way hurting the Hindu religious sentiments and PFI violating the common space and placing its digital banner which caused the present conflict situation.

The Hindus and Dalits are separated and the report states that the demand for the religious procession and car festival are restricted to caste Hindus.

When our team visited the village we found the Dalit society leaders not only stood as part and parcel with the remaining section of the Hindus in the village. We obtained information that a Dalit woman counselor (Ms. Vanita Subramaniam) was elected defeating an Islamist candidate Sheikh Abdulla. Also the so-called caste Hindus have elected another Dalit woman counselor to local bodies.

In the commonly owned area 119/1 Dalit Hindus have ceremonial rights as they are part as trustees in the temple management team. All these facts have been hidden by the ‘Facts’ finding team of Prof. A. Marx. He typically divides the Dalits from the rest of the Hindus.

The voice of the Muslims who want communal harmony and good relations with Hindus has been ignored and given a minimal space.

As the alternative fact finding team has discovered, there are many sane Muslim voices in the local population who want and cherish their fraternal relations with Muslims. These include village elders, traders etc. belonging to the Muslim community.

They all agree that the new elements (by which they mean PFI) are creating the unrest without understanding the traditional co-existence. These saner voices demand a prominent space in any endeavor really aimed to bring communal harmony.

Almost all Islamist allegations, including the untenable claim that a bride-side marriage procession consisting mainly of women attacked Muslims, are accepted by Prof. A. Marx et al.

As explained earlier, such untenable after-fabrications have not been subjected to any cross-verification. A comparison of the report by Prof. A.Marx and the report of the events in the PFI official organ in Tamil ‘Vidiyal Velli’ (April 2013) show a great similarity.

The District Administration:

District Collector Dr.Darez Ahmed IAS had earned the wrath of Islamists for his unflinching commitment to Indian constitution. Already he has been targeted by obscurantist forces for having stopped no less than 110 child marriages. He compared the Islamist prevention of Hindu use of the public space for their religious and secular processions as similar to the upper-caste denial of Dalit civil rights to use the common streets.

Superintendent of Police T.K.Rajasekaran who was accused by Islamists as targeting the minority community (which is actually the dominant community in the area of conflict), refuted the allegations and stated that the actions taken were needed actions to prevent communal flare-up. Both Hindus and Muslims we talked to corroborated what the District Collector and SP had stated.

The unheard voice of Muslims:

The Muslims want the area 119/1 to be used collectively by both Hindus and Muslims. They do not feel either frightened or intimidated or disturbed by the Hindu processions. Many appreciate the actions taken by the district administration. There is nevertheless a strong undercurrent of fear regarding the PFI. They fear the outfit which has lured many youths with fundamentalist propaganda. In fact the Muslims who strive against Islamism and want co-existence with Hindus are becoming the suppressed minorities within the minority community.

The general opinion of the Hindus:

There is a feeling of intimidation and denial of rights. Hindus feel betrayed that they have to face such threats and humiliations. Members of the Dalit community strongly took objection to them being portrayed as separate from the rest of the Hindu community and stated that this was the mischief of PFI that had created the present problem. They pointed out that their specific rights to the place would be lost if the Islamist demands like building a bus stand or public toilet is built in the place. They also made the poignant observation that the Islamist forces are trying to remove each and every common bonding in the public space between the Hindu and Muslim communities.

They stated that there are attempts to create a separate market for Muslims instead of the common village market where both communities have common bonds through trading. Mr. Ramaswamy who had been astutely documenting the events from the beginning for the last two decades, enjoys a very friendly relations with the elders of Muslim community. He also blames PFI for the present conflicts. In fact he made an important observation that the PFI is continuing the Jihadist legacy of Palani Baba.

Later when minority commission came to V.Kalathur the Hindu representative told the commission that the Hindus are the minorities in V.Kalathur. Mr.Ramaswamy, speaking on behalf of the Hindus at V.Kalathur, exclaimed to the commission that the fundamental rights of Hindus were trampled upon being disallowed to take their processions through the traditional routes. In an extreme state of desperation and defeatism, he stated before the commission, “But for the protection offered by the district administration, we will find it difficult to live in the village and I am in half a mind to get myself converted.”[55]

Some Observations:

V.Kalathur shows the kind of problems and phases a village with a considerable Islamic population in South India undergoes during an Islamist take over. PFI as the inheritor of Palani Baba’s Jihad legacy lures the youth with high pitch fundamentalist propaganda which is professionally crafted. PFI takeover of the Jammat was followed by restricting progressively the Hindu rights to public space. The relations between Hindu Muslim communities in a typical village in South India have been built on various village level syncretic practices which are targeted and removed one by one. Economic bonds are also systematically removed. This leads to complete isolation of the Islamic community which is now more connected to the Global Islamism than with their local Hindu brethren. These are all typical stages of the Islamist take over catalyzed by PFI.

The aligning of so-called progressive seculars with the Islamist forces against real communal harmony is another important feature in this development of events. The stubborn resistance to Islamist takeover by the district collector Dr. Darez Ahmed is a real problem not only for the Islamists but also for their pseudo-secular supporters. This uncomfortable feeling is shown in the aforementioned lecture of Prof.A.Marx at Madras University where he talks about V.Kalathur conflict in which he carefully avoids mentioning the fact that the district collector is a Muslim. In fact Dr.Ahmed points out the basic paradox of Islamist movement whose isolation of the community leads to what he terms as ‘ghettoization’ of the community.

But such a feeling of ghettoization and alienation of Islamic community even where it is numerically dominant is needed for the Islamists to make these places their fortresses from where they can operate to spread their Jihadist tentacles elsewhere in the state. It is not long before the determined resolve of the district administration to safeguard the basic human rights and communal harmony will be checkmated by the Islamists by a clever manipulation of pseudo-secular politics and lobbying at different levels.


[1] 18 SIMI activists held with ‘incriminating documents’, The Indian Express,17-Aug-2006

[2] Mysore terrorist got driving license from Chennai, The Indian Express, 4-Nov-2006

[3] LeT men held with IEDs, The Times of India, 01-Jan-2007

[4] Suspected militant went to Pakistan for training, Hindustan Times, 06-Jan-2007

[5] Grenades seized from Imran similar to those used in IISc. Attack, The Hindu, 14-Jan-2007

[6] Police patrol riot-hit Bangalore, IT firms operate, Reuters, 22-Jan-2007

[7] “Saddam Execution Condemnation Rally : Police Fires“, Dinadanthi (Tamil Daily), 20-Jan-2007

[8] Boxes of weapon seized from a ship container from Dubai to Kerala, Dinakaran (Tamil). 10-Jan-2007 also More Rifles & Air Guns seized in Cochin, Quran found in each packet, HK Correspondent,01-Sep-2007

[9] Mohammad Yousaf & Mark Adkin, Afghanistan The Bear Trap, Casemate 2001,p.221&223

[10] Kochi arms haul tip of iceberg: navy chief, IANS, 16-Jan-2007

[11] Concern over one more outfit, The New Indian Express, 17-Feb-2007

[12] Kerala ‘slip’ under glare, The Telegraph, 17-Aug-2008

[13] ‘Person arrested for giving fake SIM card to Kashmir terrorist’, Dinakaran (Tamil Daily),

[14] Kerala goes soft on Simi, country pays, The Economic Times, 18-Aug-2008

[15] Why Kerala youth are part of fight for Kashmir,, 27-Oct-2008: accessed on 25-Jul-2013

[16] “Outfit involved in 22 murder cases”, PTI, 04-Aug-2010

[17] Haul hints at arms stockpiling, The Hindu, 14-Jul-2010

[18] Kerala Chief Minister’s press conference at New Delhi on July 24, 2010

[19] Concern in govt over PFI’s growing outfits’ spread, Indian Express, 05-Apr-2011

[20] Dubai: EIFF Holds Grand Reception for SDPI Leader, Media Release 24-Oct-2011 ( accessed on 25-Jul-2013) and Kuwait India Fraternity Forum organised public program, Jan-2011

[21] VK Shashikumar, Here Come the Pious, Tehelka, 09-Oct-2010

[23] Baig was the mastermind, recruiter: ATS chief, The Hindu, 10-Sep-2010

[24] Kerala: Probing if PFI is linked to Lashkar, The Indian Express, 07-Sep-2010

[25] Banning PFI: Government double standard exposed, The New Indian Express, 08-Sep-2010

[26] Kerala: Accused in professor’s hand-chopping case wins civic poll,, 28-Oct-2010

[27] Dalit youth executed ‘Taliban-style’ in Kerala, The Times of India, 20-Oct-2010

[28] Three fishermen stabbed in Azhikkal, Times of India,10-Dec-2011

[29] PFI is SIMI in another form, Kerala govt tells HC, The Indian Express, 26-Jul-2012

[30] ABVP men’s killing: Call to ban PFI, feeder outfits intensifies, Daily Pioneer, 07-Sep-2012

[31] Vicky Nanjappa, PFI, HuJI helped spread the panic!, (accessed on 25-07-2013)

Shridseep Biswas, In God’s Own Country, Outlook, 23-Nov-2010

[33] Kerala Police unmasks PFI’s terror face, The New Indian Express, 28-Apr-2013

[34] Bengaluru-Narath links strengthen, Deccan Chronicle, 11-May-2013

[35]C.D.Souza, SDPI’s emergence in Dakshina Kannada poses threat in the long run, URL:, (accessed 25-Jul-2013)

[36] Narath accused had links with Dawood, claims government, The New Indian Express, 2-Jul-2013

[37] Police suspect use of foreign funds, The Hindu,20-May-2013

[38] ‘Foreign links’ of Kerala’s Islamist camp under lens, Daily Pioneer, 01-May-2013

[39] UDF Govt playing game in Narath case: Kodiyeri, Mathrubhumi, 07-May-2013

[40] T.S. Subramanian, Building new bases, Frontline, Vol.24 Iss.24, 21-Dec-2007

[41] Manitha Neethi Pasarai [MNP], (Tamil) June 21, 2006, URL:, accessed on 25-Jul-2013

[42] Kanchan Lakshman. ‘Expanding Jihad‘, South Asian Intelligence Review, Vol. 6, No. 32, 18-Feb-2008

[43] Police and PFI activists argue over holding I-Day rehearsal, 6-Jul-2009, Times of India

[44] Muslims must continue their fight for justice: Ajit Sahi, Newswala, 20-Feb-2010

[45]Intelligence widens net to nab PFI activist, The New Indian Express, 5-Aug-2012

[46] Seizure of arms from
PFI camp raises alarm, Khaleej Times, 26-Apr-2013

[47] Bomb blast: Explosives seized in Coimbatore, The New Indian Express, 15-May-2013

[48]Bangalore bomb blast: Cases filed against 11 Muslims were foisted, says report, Times of India, 28-May-2013

[49] Two PFI men held, The New Indian Express, 24-Jul-2010

[50] [accessed as on 25-Jul-2013]

[51]James Lovelock in Creel Commission Interview with James Lovelock

[52]VCK Supremo Introduces SDPI Candidate for Chennai Mayor election, url: (accessed 25-Jul-2013)

[53]A.Marx et al, ‘V.Kalathur Hindu-Muslim conflicts, Government Actions and Fact Finding Team findings’, 8-Mar-2013, (accessed on 25-Jul-2013)

[54] A.Marx, Religion and Media Today: Introductory note, @ the seminar on the same subject at Madras University, Dept. of Christian Studies, URL: (accessed on 01-Aug-2013)

[55] Muslims want protection, curbs on Hindu processions, The Hindu, 11-Apr-2013

Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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