Editorial: Democracy, not PFI, the strength of Muslims

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Thursday, September 29, 2022, 11:20 PM IST
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Representative Image | Mahesh Vishwakarma

The ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associate organisations for five years has not come as a surprise. The midnight raid on its offices all over the country and the arrest of its top leaders gave a clear indication that something drastic was in the offing. In fact, some state governments like that of Gujarat, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh had recommended a ban on the PFI. The hartal which was held in Kerala, where the PFI had its strongest unit, the day after the raids and arrests were conducted, proved beyond a shadow of doubt that its cadres did not believe in non-violence. They caused a lot of damage to public property and wherever they were strong they forced shops and establishments to down shutters. In the process, the PFI lost whatever little support some people had for it as they did not appreciate the manner in which the government conducted the raids.

Unfortunately, the PFI has always been a body that aroused a lot of suspicion. It first arose as a force to defend the democratic rights of some Muslims who became victims of violence at Nadapuram, a village in Kerala. During the last 16 years, the Nadapuram defence force underwent metamorphosis after metamorphosis, assuming many nomenclatures to become what it was until it was banned on Wednesday. All its bank accounts have been frozen and all its important leaders are behind bars. Since they have been arrested under the anti-terrorism laws, it will take many years for them to get bail, as happened in the case of journalist Siddique Kappan, who has not been released despite the Supreme Court granting him bail. Incidentally, he is alleged to be an associate of the PFI.

There are people who question the ban on the ground that the PFI has not done anything which some other organisations like the RSS have. They also point out that the ban is not a solution as the RSS was banned several times. The point however is that the PFI had succeeded in building up an image that it could protect the Muslim community, that Muslims were safe because the PFI coud give them a sense of security. This was wholly erroneous. The greatest strength of the Muslims or, for that matter, any community is the democratic system in force in the country. It has institutions like the court and the police which are duty bound to protect the interests of the citizens, no matter what their position or number is. They do not want an organisation which believes in violence and takes recourse to religious slogans at the drop of a hat.

Succession plan must for CDS

Better late than never, the government has filled the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), which was lying vacant since the accidental death of General Bipin Rawat, the first to become CDS, in December last. The delay negated the government’s own argument that the post was vital for the protection of national security. The sudden death of the incumbent exposed the lack of a succession plan to deal with such eventualities. In ordinary circumstances, the government should have filled the post in a day or two as no one could have held temporary charge as is done for other posts. That it took more than nine months to appoint Lieutenant-General Anil Chauhan (Retd) as the new CDS does not show the system of appointment in the Modi government in a good light.

Of course, nobody questions his competence as he has held key posts in the Indian Army, but the choice of Lt-Gen Chauhan is bound to raise eyebrows in defence circles. It is pointless to blame him as the criticism has nothing to do with his competence or conduct. Rank is of the essence in the armed forces. Dress, power, insignias and status all depend on the rank one holds in the force. The CDS is considered above the general in the army, the air chief in the air force and the admiral in the navy. He is also secretary to the department of military affairs. His is a job of coordination among the three forces and in situations of emergency like war, the CDS has to take the whole situation under his control. The question is whether a retired Lieutenant-General, who never commanded the Indian Army, is the right person to hold the post. Much will depend on how the CDS conducts himself. And the way to get started is to begin doing.

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