Tied to Hijab Row, is it the voice of the marginalized or a megaphone for mischief?

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” goes a popular adage, establishing the theory that visuals convey better than a written story. Thus, a video of the entry of an educational institution in Kerala which is going viral on the example networks which will illustrate the weight of the Campus Front of India (CFI), one of the recent entrants into the arena Politics.

CFI activists in the video challenge warring rivals “to touch their flags”. The other group, belonging to a prominent political ideology in the state, responds in an apologetic tone that “we haven’t touched your flags.” It may look like a scene from a National Geographic documentary where a single beast can be seen challenging a herd of enemies, simply with its face and posture. Here is the question of how the CFI, which makes headlines for various incidents on Southern campuses, including the swirling row of hijabs, managed to capture the feelings of the Muslim community as well as the public in a short time. time, with fewer frames. in its fold.

The beginning

Having started in Kerala in 2005, CFI became a national organization in 2009. “Apart from Kerala, we have structured state committees in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Bihar. In other states, including Assam and Delhi, we are present and the activities are regular”, explains Muhammed Shan, vice-president of CFI for the state of Kerala.

The outfit instantly wins the approval of central universities, minority institutions and many campuses, especially in South India, with Muslim students as its face. A survey of students from universities in South India and Delhi shows it is developing as a cadre-based Muslim student mobilizer.

According to the CFI, his Muslim face is not deliberate. “Maybe it’s because CFI attracts the most marginalized, which is where Muslim and Dalit students belong,” Shan says.

‘Not related to PFI’

Contrary to popular perception of its connection with the Indian People’s Front (PFI) starting with the similarity of names, Shan declares that the CFI is an independent organization.

Launched in 2006 through a consolidation of hardline Islamic organizations, such as National Development Front, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and Manitha Neethi Pasarai of Tamil Nadu, PFI, later brought organizations such as Community Social and Educational Society of Rajasthan , Goa’s Citizen’s Forum, Nagarik Adhikar Suraksha Samiti of West Bengal, Lilong Social Forum of Manipur and the Social Justice Association of Andhra Pradesh in its fold.

“The CFI is an independent student organization. We are not affiliated with any political party or organization. It works on the ideological basis to create socialist, moralistic and righteous students and resist Sangh Parivar ideology. The highest body is a national committee and a state committee followed by district committees and regional committees. The last in the pyramid is the unity committee,” Shan explains.

Even as it gains popularity in the student fold, the CFI has also gained notoriety and has been linked to the PFI, for what federal agencies call incitement to communal hatred and anti-national activities.

Under surveillance

Both organizations had gone under the radar of intelligence agencies, especially from 2012. The trigger was the exodus of students from the northeast who fled cities like Bengaluru, Pune following online rumors of reprisals against them after an attack on Muslims in Assam. However, PFI and CFI had denied any wrongdoing on their part in this incident.

The politically hyperactive entity responds to every event that concerns not only the Muslim community but also human rights. He often chooses issues that suit his political interests. It may be noted that CFI has been at the forefront of anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) and anti-NRC (National Register of Citizens) protests in Delhi and other cities and towns.

CFI believes that its members should come from the campus and that any student can be a member. “Every year, we conduct professional orientation programs under the CFI banner. We also run programs for students over two and SSLC to ease the fear of exams and as a result, students are admitted to many institutions. Naturally, they begin to bond with the organization for these motivations. We also motivate vocational college students. This will naturally lead them to be part of CFI units,” says Shan. According to him, the organization does not guide its members to join one of the organizations once they leave the campus.

Numbers game

How does CFI transcend the idea more effectively than other organizations, especially larger in number and scope?

“We use the maximum strength of the frames and move in one direction without any other distractions. We use social media effectively as mainstream media does not adequately cover CFI. We spread the fact to the public through the effective use of social media. It is more effective in Kerala because the society is a more educated society,” says Shan. He also recognizes that it is the support for identity politics in Kerala that gives CFI a hand in gaining acceptance in the public sphere.

However, investigative agencies, as well as rival organizations, are not ready to buy this claim.

“They normally choose emotional issues. Then they create or weave a narrative about that issue, regardless of the fact or truth of it. Then they identify a target group. Their story will have many patterns that this group or section can easily identify or assimilate. Then they broadcast the story. They mainly use social media for this because it’s faster, cheaper and more efficient. A large percentage of the group will respond spontaneously. Based on the emotional agreement, the problem will lead to the rise of a mob, which is leaderless. When the crowd is ready, those who plan it join it and enjoy the popularity. Then guide them according to their plan. They repeat this at constant intervals in different places, to create an aura of resentment. Soon this will result in grievance-based radicalization in large numbers,” says a senior officer who has more than two decades of experience managing ultra groups across the country. He cites the example of a hartal initiated by “unknown” faces. on WhatsApp in Kerala on April 16, 2018, to handle anger and protest the rape and murder of Kathua, later known as “WhatsApp hartal”.

According to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in response to a question in the assembly, 385 criminal cases have been registered against individuals for inciting “WhatsApp hartal” aimed at creating a community divide in the state. No fewer than 1,595 people have been arrested in connection with the case.

“They want the embers to burn”

Incidentally, other significant organizations, in terms of membership and influence in the community, consider the emotional actions of CFI harmful to the cause of the community in a pluralistic society.

“We all have an opinion on any subject, be it CAA or hijab. However, we do not take it emotionally in a line similar to the Sangh Parivar. We do not endorse their style of agitation,” says Dr. AI Abdul Majeed Swalahi, Academic and State Chairman of Ithihadu Subbanil Mujahideen (ISM), the youth wing of Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen (KNM), an organization Islamic State founded in 1952 and part of He was actively involved in the campaigns against the Islamic State across Kerala.

“They, whether it’s the SDPI (political branch of the PFI) or the Jamaat-e-Islami, don’t want to make a deal. They want the embers to burn. They only have space and importance when the subjects are not settled. In numbers, they are far behind many. They are only present on social networks. They have an executive team that triggers these issues through social media. It will create disputes and debates there,” observes Swalahi.

He argues that these issues should not be dealt with emotionally. These organizations want to create suspicion on all institutions of democracy, he says. “We always say publicly to our community and its members that our country, India, is one with the protection of Muslims. However, these elements do not care. Their program is 100% political Islam. This is part of a worldwide program of the Islamic Brotherhood. Wherever political Islam is active, there is no peace for Muslims. Do you know who other than Hezbollah damaged a country like Lebanon? Hamas is the enemy of the Palestinians. You know how peaceful the UAE is as a country in terms of religious freedom and tolerance. You can see what the Houthis are doing there,” Swalahi explains. “We, as an organization of Muslims, inform young people of this danger. If we don’t constantly resist, children might be influenced by their ideology.

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