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RSS a ‘cancer’, created hijab ‘drama’, says PFI in grand Bengal meet where TMC MLA shares stage

Popular Front of India organised meeting in Murshidabad district where it vowed to escalate fight against RSS. TMC MLA Manirul Islam spoke in support of PFI.

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Murshidabad: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a “cancer” and the hijab row is “drama” that it created, proclaimed Popular Front of India (PFI) national secretary Mohamed Shakif at a “grand public meeting” to “save the republic” in Murshidabad, West Bengal, Thursday. 

Attended by thousands — men, women, even babies — the meeting also saw a leader of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) publicly share a stage with the PFI, an Islamist organisation, for the first time. Manirul Islam, TMC MLA from Farakka, said he had never before seen such an overwhelming response from the people.

“Our fight is for rights, to live with dignity. We are Indians. The government wants to build a Hindu nation, but this is a secular country. We don’t want to live under anyone’s pity. And that’s what PFI stands up for,” Islam said.

In another first, 300 PFI cadres came marching five kilometres from Basudebpur to Kankuria in Murshidabad. Trooping into the meeting at a government school playground, the cadres performed their drills before a West Bengal audience for the first time, as part of the group’s ongoing countrywide programme. 

Shakif, the chief guest, directly targeted the RSS, accusing it of dividing India’s Hindus and Muslims. “The sound of our drums reaches the RSS, and they grow scared in Nagpur,” he began his speech amid slogans of Allahu Akbar and PFI zindabad

“The RSS is a cancer. We are the only organisation in this country that stands as a thorn in their path. That’s why they target us. They call us ‘fringe’. We will die, but we will not bow our heads,” said Shakif. 

He went on to highlight the ongoing row over educational institutions in Karnataka banning the hijab — where the PFI, and its political wing, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), have played a role.

“We saw how a few metres of cloth has become a danger in this country. The RSS created drama and sent their boys in saffron, and created pressure on the court. Hijab is our fundamental right. Don’t teach us the Qur’an. Hijab will be there till qayamat,” said Shakif, referring to the concept of ‘day of judgement’ in Islam.

Also read: Hijab row not about choice, liberals supporting ‘dangerous trend’, RSS-backed Organiser says

RSS the main target 

The speakers didn’t name Prime Minister Narendra Modi even once, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) found only three mentions during the three-hour programme. But the RSS, the Sangh Parivar’s ideological fountainhead, was the primary target. 

“The RSS is torturing everyone by coming to power. If Gandhi is considered to be the best Hindu, then remember one thing it was RSS worker Godse who killed him. Not a Muslim,” said Shakif.

He also raised the issue of hate speech against Muslims at the ‘Dharam Sansad’ event held in Haridwar in December, the ‘Bulli Bai’ app, which targeted Muslim women by uploading their photographs and ‘auctioning’ them, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

“These RSS cancer keedas (vermin) didn’t even spare Virat Kohli’s infant after he voiced his support for a Muslim bowler. He was removed from captaincy,” alleged Shakif, referring to the rape threats online against Kohli’s infant daughter after the then-cricket captain spoke up in support of his teammate Mohammed Shami. 

“Even Shah Rukh Khan’s son was sent to jail because the actor spoke out against the NRC-CAA,” Shakif claimed, referring to the drugs case against Aryan Khan.


Thursday’s meeting broke new ground for the TMC and PFI, who haven’t previously been on such terms. Back in 2020, TMC MP Abu Taher Khan had courted controversy when PFI posters with his name were released for anti CAA-NRC protests that were being organised in Murshidabad. 

TMC MLA Monirul Islam at the PFI meeting in Murshidabad on 17 February | Sreyashi Dey | ThePrint
TMC MLA Monirul Islam at the PFI meeting in Murshidabad on 17 February | Sreyashi Dey | ThePrint

The MP was quick to deny his participation and told the media that he was not aware of this. He filed a police complaint against the PFI for not taking his consent before publishing the posters. Two days later, the police denied permission to the PFI to carry out any public meeting. 

The role of the PFI had been under the lens after violent anti CAA-NRC protests broke out in Murshidabad in December 2019, after the Act was amended. TMC insiders had earlier claimed that while party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would not seek a ban on the PFI like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, she has asked the police to keep the group “under watch”. 

On 9 February, in the backdrop of the hijab row in Karnataka, West Bengal Police were asked to be on high alert, in case the issue was brought up in the state and led to violence.

Last week, at Bahutali High School in Murshidabad district, violent clashes broke out after the headmaster asked one of the girls to take off her hijab. Locals clashed with police who had reached the spot to keep order.

A sub-inspector at the nearby Suti Bloc II station, who didn’t wish to be identified, told ThePrint that 18 people had been arrested, but did not divulge their identities.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: Viral photos, bruised egos, radical student groups: Inside story of Karnataka’s hijab crisis


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