The incident in Alappuzha where, during a Popular Front of India (PFI) rally, a minor was found mouthing hate slogans against Hindus and Christians, is indicative of how radicalisation of Muslims in the state begins at a young age.
This means de-radicalisation must also focus on this impressionable age. In this instance, there is a strong case for handing over the child to foster care, followed by regular counselling. The parents themselves should be targeted for de-radicalisation, if not all the active workers of the PFI.
This should be obvious from what the father of the boy said after his arrest. A PTI report published by the Hindustan Times said the father defended his son, saying no one had taught him the slogans, and the child had learnt it at earlier PFI programmes.
He is quoted as saying: "We used to take part in PFI programmes. He learned the slogan when he attended a protest against implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). I don't understand why it has become a controversy now. What offence did he commit to harass a little boy like this?"
The boy obviously cannot be blamed, but how can the father not take responsibility if he regularly attended rallies that raised such slogans? What did he do to protect the child from mouthing hateful slogans? He surely cannot be trusted with care of the child in future, and the PFI clearly needs to be banned.
The PFI tried to disown the child’s sloganeering, and claimed that the slogans were not against Hindus and Christians, but the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This is rich: if the PFI has a problem with the RSS, it can file a police complaint against it, but it has no moral right to make hate speeches against the Sangh. Calling for the murder of Sangh activists is not any better than calling for hate and violence against other religious groups.
In the past, the PFI has held rallies showing men dressed in RSS uniforms in chains, but the “secular” fact-checkers focused only on the fact that these were not actual RSS workers, but only people dressed as one (read here, here). The point is hatred can be expressed in many ways, and the deliberate bid to humiliate the RSS cannot but be called out as a hate campaign. Would the PFI then accept a Hindu rally showing Muslims organisations similarly depicted?
The radicalisation of some sections of Kerala’s Muslims, and possibly even elsewhere, needs to be nipped in the bud, and it would be a pity if the Pinarayi Vijayan government used the PFI only as a tool to delegitimise the mainstream Indian Union Muslim League, which is aligned with the rival United Democratic Front.
The CPI(M) has to stamp out the PFI’s bid to radicalise Muslims before it creates another Bhindranwale in the state.
Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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