Kerala SFI activist's killing shows SDPI's rising influence; analysts say radical groups trying to introduce 'political Islam'
SDPI is an amalgam of various radical Muslim outfits that became active in Kerala in the wake of demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
The murder of Students Federation of India (SFI) leader Abhimanyu at Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam on 1 July is widely viewed by Muslim scholars and social critics as a strong political message sent out by Social Democratic Front of India (SDPI).
Prominent Sunni leader Kanthapuram Aboobacker Musliyar believes that the radical organisation is trying to introduce political Islam in the state through terror deeds. He said SDPI cadres have been indulging in extremist activities by misinterpreting the Quran and Hadees.
SDPI is an amalgam of various radical Muslim outfits that became active in Kerala in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. It is the political arm of Popular Front of India (PFI), which came into being in 2006 by assimilating the elements of the dreaded National Development Front (NDF) and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
The common thread that binds all these outfits is Qutbism and Mouridism which stands for "political Islam", according to well-known social critic, Hameed Chennamangaloor. He said the PFI made this ideological position clear when they chopped off the right hand of New Man College professor PJ Joseph in 2010.
“The penalty for defaming Allah and Mohammed Nabi in Qutbism and Mouridism is slicing the palm of the right hand and left leg of the person who has committed the blasphemy. The assailants had also hacked Joseph’s left leg but narrowly missed the target,” said Hameed.
The involvement of the SDPI men in the murder of Abhimanyu was revealed following the arrest of Muhammed, head of its students’ wing, the Campus Front of India (CFI), by the police on 18 July.
Muhammad reportedly told the police that Abhimanyu was eliminated as part of a larger decision to counter the dominance of the CPM student wing on the Maharaja College campus. Police believe the murder was committed by SDPI workers, who were summoned by Muhammed to the campus. The search for those directly involved in the murder is still on.
Documents seized by the police in the raids carried out on the offices and homes of CFI, SDPI and PFI leaders revealed that they have been targeting not only SFI but also the CPM as well as its youth wing as they posed hurdles in their growth, according to a report in The New Indian Express.
Abhimanyu was hacked to death after SFI objected to the use of a college wall for graffiti by the CFI to welcome new students to the college. The killing of Abhimanyu is part of a series of over 30 murders in which the SDPI and PFI activists are alleged to be involved.
The SDPI floated the student wing in 2009 as part of its strategy to spread its wings in the state. It was established with the main objective of empowering college campuses by creating a new generation of committed activists. The student wing came to the limelight by running a campaign against college rules that prohibited headscarves on campus.
The SDPI has been trying to expand its base in the state by championing the cause of Dalits, tribals and other marginalised sections of the society. Hameed feels that the public posturing is a cover for propagating their core ideology of political Islam.
“The PFI and SDPI propagate that Islam is the only religion in the world and Quran is the only religious text. These outfits argue that religious freedom that the Muslims enjoy cannot be complete without creating a political Islamic State. They have been, therefore, trying to spread these ideas through madrasas and social networking sites,” said Hameed.
He said the PFI and SDPI have been growing in the state also due to the soft stand adopted towards them by the mainstream secular parties such as the Congress and the CPM. He said all major parties in the state have been taking the support of these outfits during the elections.
Curiously, the CPM forged an electoral understanding with the SDPI in the last Assembly election. The party is still ruling several local bodies in north Kerala with the support of SDPI. The CPM seems to have realised its mistake following the murder of its activist.
Party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan called the SDPI the Indian version of the Islamic State and cautioned political parties against attempts by party workers to intrude into their organisations. The CPM has also launched a campaign to reveal the true colours of the SDPI.
However, NP Chekutty, a political analyst based in Kozhikode, told Firstpost such campaigns would only provide a further boost to the SDPI. He said that the best way to counter the party is to understand the issues they raise.
“The SDPI has been trying to make inroads into the political space by trying to bring into political mainstream the marginalised sections like the Dalits and the tribals, who are ignored by the CPM, Congress, Indian Union Muslim League and other major parties. Many members of these marginalised sections are moving close to the party as they have not been given any role in the mainstream parties,” said Chekutty.
He said a large section of the Dalits and tribals believe that the mainstream parties are interested only in the middle and upper middle-class sections of the society. The SDPI has understood this and they are trying to take advantage of it, he added.
“I don’t know whether the SDPI is genuine in its support to the marginalised sections or not. But the presence of many non-Muslims in the SDPI leadership in various districts and at the state-level shows that the Dalits and tribals trust the party,” Chekutty said.
However, senior journalists like MP Prashanth doubt the sincerity of the SDPI. Prashanth believes that the party is taking the company of Dalits and tribals for gaining political acceptance. The party’s core ideology is jihad, he alleges.
In fact, there have been conflicts within the organisation over the ideology. Rashid Abdulla, a founding leader of the NDF who is now believed to be living in Afghanistan, accused the SDPI leadership of deviating from its ideology.
He was quoted by The Times of India as saying that the NDF was formed to wage jihad against the oppressors of Muslims, including the CPM and the RSS, but there was a dilution in its mission following the merger between the NDF and PFI.
He said that the organisation had lost its Islamic character after the formation of the political front. Prashanth believes that through the murder of Abhimanyu, the SDPI may be aiming to retain the hardcore cadres of the organisation.
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