The Hindu Nationalist government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) in September 2022. The government accused the organization of indulging in “terror activities” and radicalizing Muslim youth to “subvert” democracy, a claim vehemently denied by its member and other activists. However, the ban is yet to pass the test of judicial scrutiny and whether the invocation of the draconian terror law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), is justified or not. Hundreds of members and activists linked to the organization were arrested across 20 Indian states, including Mohammed Shakif.
The BJP government has already set the narrative to strangle the democratic participation of religious minorities. PFI identifies itself as a neo-social movement with the intent of providing constitutional safeguards to oppressed and traditionally marginalized communities.
Human rights groups have demanded the revocation of the ban, terming it an undemocratic display of power. The critics pointed out that the right-wing government’s approach toward Muslim identity is hostile and totalitarian.
Life and Activism
Mohammad Shakif is the founding member of PFI and its current national secretary (media and public relations). He owns a real estate business.
Shakif was primarily responsible for the media relations of PFI and was popular among its base. He is a staunch critic of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the ideology of Hindutva.
During the anti-Citizenship Bill protests in 2019-20, he held demonstrations to counter the fear instilled by the BJP government and its Hindu nationalist supporters. He was at the forefront, leading the movement to seek revocation of the discriminatory citizenship law.
Shakif believes that the Indian Parliament lacks strong opposition. The vacuum has provided a fertile ground for the right-wing nationalist government to suppress dissent and commit atrocities against religious minorities. In the absence of opposition in Parliament, he said, citizens should express their dissent and oppose the arbitrary policies of the government.
At an event, he criticized the mainstream media for creating the binary of ‘hero and villain,’ stating that the Muslim community has always been deliberately depicted as villains. Due to historical injustices and media narratives, the Muslim community has lost its sense of justice and dignity. He further said that the constitution is a pioneer in granting dignity to the Muslim community.
Not released yet.