Question: This is your second term as the chairman of Popular Front of India. You are from Karnataka and your newly elected general secretary is from Tamil Nadu. Is it an indication that the leadership of the organization moving out of Kerala? At the same time, no one is found in the National executive council from outside these three south Indian states. How long will it take for Popular Front to become an organization with a nation-wide appeal and representation?
Answer: Ours is an organization which practices internal democracy. Our National Executive Council is selected by delegates from different states of the country. 15 members are elected through an election process which is carried out democratically and transparently in every two years. Representations from different states are given enough importance while electing capable members. In the last election people were elected not only form southern states but even from Manipur which is a North-Eastern state. Our national treasurer is from Manipur which in the last term was from West Bengal. Of course, Popular Front has to grow more nationally representative and in fact it is growing.
Q: It is right that your national treasurer is from Manipur. But this is just a nominal presence. South India is still far ahead in growth and development. It has been eight years since you commenced your advent to north. Is this much talked about north-south difference a reality? Could you make expected advancement in new regions? Are there still any insurmountable obstructions there?
A: It is true Popular Front has more strength in south India. But that does not mean we are weak in north India. Our presence in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra and Manipur and many other states is not just nominal any more. Now we have grown so much in North India that they are able take up whatever decisions of organization and implement it throughout the state. In this term we declared our organization in Bihar and Jharkhand and formed state committees there. We are strong enough in north now that almost all the programmes and protests we hold in south, we are able to hold in north too. We have enough manpower for that in North. We have only one India; an India that has no north south distinctions. Although With slight ups and downs in detail, fundamental problems of Indian Muslims are the same. They all need to be empowered. It is true that in the northern and eastern states with more Muslim population they are more backward in all fields compared to South Indian states. Social empowerment is a new experience for north India Muslims. They have to be taught about it. They have to be developed for political empowerment. It will take time.
Q: The recently held area-level popular gatherings i.e. Area Conferences were well received as village festivals. It also appears that organization is now engaged more in social service activities. Is this not a diversion of organization from its earlier position which focused on resistance to fascism and protection of human rights?
A: We are still a people’s resistance movement. Our resistance to fascism and colonialism will always be there. We will keep opposing them without any compromise. We will continue to expose the treacherous tactics of Hindutva forces that destroy the pluralistic environment of the country for mere political gains. We will continue to build people’s resistance against their threatening tactics. We will share platform with likeminded people for this purpose. Protests, public meetings, seminars, press statements and poster campaigns all are parts of our programme.
Along with that we also put forth the activities for the empowerment of Muslims and other backward classes. Our agenda have been expanded along our growth and development and our responsibilities have been increased due to growing assaults on the fundamental rights of the people. The village get-togethers successfully held across the nation have strengthened our confidence to go down to people and work for them.
Q: ‘Together for a bright future’. This was the slogan of the Area Conferences. Many share the view that there must be long term plans for the future. Has Popular Front taken any step in this regard seriously?
A: We have passed 67 years of Independence. So far the self-proclaimed leaders in Muslim community keep proving their failures and degeneration. They are content with lamenting about the problems all the time. There is very less change in society. Those who claim to lead Indian Muslims lack connection with the people at lower levels. There is no specific concern for their future, nor do they have required developmental projects. The intelligentsia, they write books and articles, hold seminars and present statistics. No one is able to determine what should be the road map to future for Indian Muslims. At least now we should be able lead Muslims to empowerment. We should have a long term vision, mission and action agenda. Popular Front is thinking and moving on that line. What India should be in future? What should be the state of Muslims and backward classes in future India? Having travelled throughout the country, we have started our discussions and interactions with various people in this regard.
Q: Why Popular Front is targeted more than any other organization? Governments create obstacles to Popular Front. Parties keep distance from Popular Front. Media propagate stories. Not only them, why even some Muslim groups still continue to oppose Popular Front? How will you overcome this situation?
A: As an organization which is persistently striving for truth and justice, we naturally have enemies. Ours is an organization that is very powerful, has a cadre system and constantly expanding from one place to another. For that reason, we are being watched and sometimes threatened by reactionary forces. We are going ahead by organizing Muslims and other marginalised sections throughout the country, by creating network among them, by empowering them, by fighting for their rights and by politically strengthening them. Only this provokes those with hidden agendas and not that we have ever in our last two decade’s history committed anything anti-national, anti-democratic or anti-constitutional. All those elements that target us know this fact very well. Our activities are transparent. The communal fascist circles and some other agencies are using media against us. We have no other option but to hold on to the truth stronger. The only way to overcome the manipulations is to convince the truth. And we have no other option.
Q: A new report appeared recently that Popular Front is going to be banned. Why such reports keep coming out from time to time? Is there such a threat of ban?
A: Popular Front is a social movement constitutionally working in India. The Media have already banned Popular Front many times. But our two decade’s activities of empowering Muslims and backward classes have not stopped yet. Not even a shred of evidence that we can be reason for a ban can be found from activities. At the same time divisive anti-national forces including RSS are at work here. We constantly expose such forces. But not only the government is not controlling them, but government themselves are under their control. Understandably, those who even control the government do not need any particular evidence for banning dissident voices. But we believe that our democratic conscience will defeat any such illegal and unjust moves.
Q: There were attempts to link your organization with some of the terror incidents like bomb explosion. Stories floated in the past linking you with groups from LTTE to Al-Qaeda. Now it is your turn of ISIS link in some media. Can the violent activities that some Muslim named groups are accused of being responsible, be justified?
A: We strongly believe that the empowerment of Muslims or other backward classes cannot be achieved just by bomb explosions or by unleashing violence. Indian problems, situations and challenges are different. Illiteracy, poverty, insecurity, injustice, unemployment, corruption and Hindutva fascism are the problems we are seeking solutions to. The problems of Indian society or that of Muslims cannot be solved just by blowing up public places like markets and trains and killing innocent people. We continue to caution against such activities. The solution we propose for the problem is to find manpower from grassroots level, organise them and prepare them to empower economically, educationally and politically. Opposing discriminations and exploitations through democratic and open means is the method we have adopted.
We don’t have any links to any such mysterious groups within or outside the country. Moreover, why should Indian Muslims seek help from such groups while there is no clear and accurate information about them yet? Indian Muslims are capable of organizing their activities in popular and legitimate ways by addressing the ground realities. The strength of this soil is enough for us. No foreign organization set any model for us to adopt.
Q: Although they are isolated cases, a few youngsters are being reported to be drawn to such groups in our country. How can we prevent such tendencies? Do you have any such agenda?
A: Actually youngsters in considerable numbers are not attracted to them. Only some isolated incidents are quoted. The reasons such as Hindutva fascist assaults, state terrorism, denial of justice from the judiciary etc. might be leading some minds to such lines. But it is not the way to correct such wrongs. The bottom line is that people are unsatisfied with the corrupt and communal politics here. This situation has to be changed, but responses should be objective. Widespread awareness creation and right way of organizing are required. This cannot be done by Popular Front alone. Other organisations and social groups must also take up this responsibility. Government and political leaderships also have responsibility. Popular Front alert about this and fulfils our part effectively.
Q: Maoism is one of the major law and order problems and a real challenge faced by the country. Instead of participating in the democratic process they have adopted armed rebellion. Popular Front is seen to be cooperating with their sympathisers on Human Rights platforms. This needs a clarification.
A: We don’t know exactly who Maoists are. Accusation of Maoism is also being used falsely and unjustly just as the label Islamic terrorism is being misused. Popular Front does not have any links with any groups that are in the list of banned organisations. This is the truth. But Popular Front has shared platforms with like-minded people who voice against Hidutva fascism and violations of Human rights. We never supported any groups or ideologies that do not believe in the democratic process and that are taking arms against government. A democratic and lawful solution; that is what popular front proposes.
Q: Popular Front too has a politics. Do you see any possible success of your politics?
Popular Front has a politics since its beginning. That is to defeat Hindutva Fascist communal forces. What we propose is positive politics. Dalits and Backward classes should have participation in power. Indian Muslims should gain their adequate representation by making use of the space available in Indian democracy. That is our message. Our politics is to build up an India where every citizen enjoys equal rights and each one is free from fear and hunger. We will continue to propagate this message throughout the country. People will identify and accept our approach in due course. Victory might be delayed, but it is inevitable.