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Some Animals Are More Equal: Article 14

Some Animals Are More Equal: Article 14

Bobby Kunhu

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past” – George Orwell, 1984

If a larger country oppresses a smaller country, I’ll stand with the smaller country. If the smaller country has majoritarian religion that oppresses minority religions, I’ll stand with minority religions. If the minority religion has caste and one caste oppresses another caste, I’ll stand with the caste being oppressed. In the oppressed caste, if an employer oppresses his employee, I’ll stand with the employee If the employee goes home and oppresses his wife, I’ll stand with that woman. Overall, Oppression is my enemy“- Periyar E. V. Ramasamy

The raids and arrests leading to the ban of the Popular Front of India and its affiliate organizations exposes serious fault lines with respect to how the law enforcement agencies understand and execute the principle of equality before law – which the Supreme Court of India has repeatedly asserted is the cornerstone of our constitutional rights – as an inalienable part of the basic structure of the Indian constitution. These raids, arrests and the subsequent ban seem to be unleashing yet another unchecked and unfettered wave of Islamophobia in the general social and political discourse within India, not just in the so-called right wing media – but also in the self-professed liberal media like NDTV and The Hindu.

The bigoted, sexist, lazy and debunked fantasies like love jihad have raised their ugly head again. The best example is how almost all media except Newslaundry, the Facebook page Policenama, and the twitter handle of Varsha Torgalkar echoed the Associated News report that the PFI protestors against the raid shouted pro-Pakistan slogans, while being arrested and went silent (except for the right wing) after being debunked by Altnews. The entrenched and illogical bigotry that Muslim communities in India owe allegiance to Pakistan is a reason that it is so easy for Savarna chatterati to swallow this story. I suppose a person has to have a death wish to loudly profess his love for a foreign nation – Pakistan or any other country – especially when s/he is on the verge of being arrested on camera!

At the outset, let me make it clear, while I strongly believe that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is anti-constitutional, draconian, against basic principles of human rights and democratic values, it is not my job to defend the Popular Front of India. They have enough cadre, sympathizers and paid advocates to do that. If the Popular Front has transgressed law, legal processes have to be initiated against the organization and its individual members, like any other organization registered in India under the schematics of the constitution of India. Rather, the exercise I plan to undertake here is to presume that the sensationalized reportage that has suddenly been doing the rounds since the first raids and arrests to be true and compare this with reportages on accusations against organisations affiliated with the Sangh Parivar and highlight the differential treatment to the same.

But, before I delve into this exercise, it would be important to point out the mischief behind allegations linking Popular Front with anti-CAA/NRC (Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019/National Registry of Citizens) protests across the country. Regardless of all its efforts, government agencies haven’t been able to make a dent into the legitimacy that anti-CAA/NRC movement has been able to gain internationally, particularly given that it has been documented to have erupted spontaneously with collective leadership. This attempted linkage seems to be an effort to brand the movement that sought peoples’ constitutional place as an Islamist conspiracy and sell it to an increasingly vocal Islamophobic world.

  1. Converting India into an Islamic State
    All other allegations flow from this, and so I shall also start here. While none of the pubic documents or statements of the PFI states or demands this, the accusation is that PFI secretly harbours this as its core ambition. The RSS (Rasthtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and its affiliates, collectively referred to as the Sangh Parivar have not only nursed the ambition of converting India into a Hindu State, but also have been visibly working towards it. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Chief, very clearly declared that India is a Hindu Rasthra ( Hindu nation) as recently as February, 2022. Secularism and freedom of religion is a pivotal part of the Indian constitution.
  2. History of Violence and Rioting
    Very few people, particularly in Kerala, would deny that PFI cadre have been involved in various acts of violence. Most of these cases have been investigated, some tried, and convictions have also been obtained. The Sangh Parivar has had a history of violence that has preceded the formation of the Indian State. While their activists were definitely complicit in participating in what can be termed as one of the biggest human disasters of the 2oth century – violence during the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 – they have been involved organizationally or through their cadre in almost all communal riots in India. The Delhi riots, which many newspapers allege that PFI was linked to, was incited by a hate speech given by Kapil Mishra, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Justice Muralidhar was transferred to Punjab and Haryana High Court for expressing anguish that First Information Reports had not been filed against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, and Abhay Verma for their hate speech. Leaders of the Parivar, including the BJP egged on the bringing down of Babri Masjid on December 6. Apart from riots, the Sangh Parivar has also perpetrated violence against political opponents, including murder and sexual violence as a form of terror.
  3. Conversion
    Another of the accusations against PFI is that it was engaged in conversion of people into Islam. Almost all the organisations of the Sangh Parivar have been advocating and performing gharwapsi (homecoming) including offering incentives that they would be able to claim reservation privileges when they “reconvert” to Hinduism!
  4. Organizing training camps
    According to the RSS annual report for 2018, the RSS has 83,318 shakhas (branches), 58,967 meeting daily, 16,405 meeting weekly and 7,946 meeting monthly. This perhaps is the largest organizational network in the world and these meetings impart both combat skills and ideological training.
  5. Foreign Funding
    One of the main accusations against PFI is laundering money for the purposes of illegal activities. To circumvent provisions of Foreign Exchange Management Act, PFI is alleged to have used personal accounts to transfer money and then channelled it to PFI front organizations. Also PFI stands accused of indulging in hawala transactions for getting money for its activities. Before a special Court in Kerala, the Enforcement Directorate submitted that PFI has received over INR 100 Crores over the years through its various bank accounts. After the raids, a collective balance of INR 5o Lakhs was found in the ten bank accounts of the organization and a further balance of INR 9.5 Lakhs was found in the account of Rehab India Foundation. It is said that PFI has branches in the Middle East from where they raise money. There is no claim that the transactions in its entirety was channelled remittances from abroad, meaning that it would be safe to presume that a sizable part of these remittances could also have been domestic. All the outfits of the Sangh Parivar, including outfits like Bajrang Dal, that were involved in mob lynching against beef slaughter, various riots, have thrived on voluntary contributions. SEWA International stands accused of collecting money in the name of development and then spending it on propagating the idea of Hindutva. Similarly, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) with its presence in around 29 countries not only engages in aggressive fund collections, but also, along with 6 of its affiliates have been claiming tax exemptions as a charitable organization, while its activities do not reflect so. This preferential treatment hasn’t happened only under a BJP regime. In 1991, the National Front government shielded the VHP from an Income Tax summons. There have also been allegations that the money that was raised by India Development and Relief Fund for Gujarat earthquake relief was channelized to the Sangh Parivar organizations to be used for the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. One is left to wonder how much money would have passed through the bank accounts of the Sangh Parivar and its multiple affiliates, what its current balance is, how the money was sourced, and whether there will ever be an investigation or inquiry into the same, especially given that the Sangh Parivar affiliates have been accused of engaging in the same activities that PFI stands accused of.

As regards the lazy and juvenile allegations such as the sexist fantasy of love jihad and that PFI funded their people to meddle in Hathras rape case – which has a caste undertone and not a communal undertone – only demonstrates the ease with which bigotry can be whipped up and I do not deem it worthwhile to even address those. What concerns me is the uncritical celebration of the downfall of PFI, without questioning similar and parallel majoritarian transgressions. While a section of the Congress party has demanded a ban on RSS, the demand lacks complete conviction, because the Sangh Parivar grew and blossomed under the Congress, and successive Congress governments have failed to curb their unbridled advocacy of religious nationalism. What is being sacrificed in this race to prosecute PFI is the basic values enshrined in Art. 14 of the constitution of India.

As the constitution of India is the text unto which “we, the people” have entrusted sovereignty, the question is and should be – regardless of how powerful or which caste or religion the organization or individual belongs to –whether the professed ideology upon which commissions or omissions have happened fall within the notion of justice envisaged by the constitution. Or do such commissions and/or omissions subvert the scheme of constitutional justice?

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” – George Orwell, Animal Farm

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power”. – George Orwell, 1984


Bobby Kunhu is a lawyer, researcher and writer.