They are here for long haul: RSS feels need to counter PFI influence

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is working on plans to counter the growing influence of the Popular Front of India (PFI) in southern university campuses and elsewhere, it is learnt.

These plans include expanding the base of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in southern India and reaching out to sections within the Muslim community not aligned with the PFI.

The Sangh believes that the student wing of PFI, the Campus Front of India (CFI), was instrumental in galvanising minority students on the hijab controversy in Karnataka and was successful in making it a national issue.

The Karnataka HC recently ruled that hijab is not an essential practice in Islam and so if a school does not allow it, students can’t insist on wearing the hijab. Students have challenged the order in the Supreme Court now.

“The PFI, which used to be limited to Kerala once, is fast spreading its wings. It is in campuses everywhere in the South and has now begun making forays in the North too. During the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in UP, they played an important role. There is a need to counter their growing influence,” a senior RSS leader told The Indian Express.

What has rattled the Sangh the most is that the PFI’s organisational structure and functioning is quite similar to the RSS. “They have socio-cultural outreach, they are in campuses and even have a wing which conducts parades and marches just like the Sangh does. They have shown that they are here for a long haul,” another leader said.

According to sources, the Sangh plans to embark on a public outreach programme across the country to expose PFI and tell the truth on “misinformation spread by the outfit”.  This would be coupled with outreach to sections within the minority community.

“Not all Muslims are aligned with PFI ideology. A large number of them do not like its militant activism. We have to reach out to them,” an RSS functionary said.

Apart from this, the Sangh plans to expand further in campuses in south India. “We already have a very good network in Karnataka. Even in Telangana, we are doing very well. In Kerala we are fighting but the Left continues to dominate campuses. In Andhra, we have work to do in the coastal areas. In Tamil Nadu too we have to increase our influence,” a leader said.

ABVP currently has 33,44,917 members.

Many in the RSS believe that the government must ban PFI, given many reports by agencies against the outfit. “We are not the government,  which may have its own compulsions of law and process. But working with society is our realm,” another functionary said.

In its annual report tabled during the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha baithak in Gujarat recently, the RSS said there was “growing religious fanaticism” in the country in the guise of “Constitution and religious freedom” and “elaborate plans by a particular community to enter the government machinery”.

It also called for “all-out efforts with organized strength” to “defeat this menace”.

Suggesting it to be a conspiracy with long-term goals, the report said: “There appear to be elaborate plans by a particular community to enter the government machinery. Behind all this, it seems that a deep conspiracy with a long-term goal is working. On the strength of numbers, preparations are being made to adopt any route to get their demands accepted.”

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