Kerala mob attack on Muslim campaigners: CM Vijayan accuses victims of ‘helping’ Sangh Parivar to attack them

Earlier, various Muslim groups in a joint statement had condemned the attack, calling it part of the 'efforts to destroy religious amity' in the state.

Calicut: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan accused the Muslim campaigners, who were beaten by a Hindutva mob near Kochi on August 20, while publicly distributing some reading materials, of “helping” the Sangh Parivar to unleash violence.

Pinarayi Vijayan said acts like that of the campaigners were actually helping the Sangh Parivar to implement their violent agenda in the state.

The CM’s comment, however, sparked criticism as many asked him to safeguard the constitutional rights of the citizens to peacefully propagate their ideas, instead of criticizing the victims themselves.

CM Pinarayi Vijayan was referring to a mob attack last week on a group of peaceful Muslim campaigners.

The activists were later arrested by the police and charged under IPC Section 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race…). A local court, while granting bail to the activists, however, said that the activists were only exercising their constitutional rights.

“Content of one of the pamphlets … was to criticize those who believe in polytheism and idol worship,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was quoted to having said in the Kerala assembly. He, however, also said that his government is taking the attack on the activists “seriously”.

The mob attack happened on August 20 at Paravoor near Kochi, where a group of around 40 Muslim men, belonging to the ‘Wisdom Global Islamic Mission’, were publicly distributing some reading materials as part of their ongoing public campaign.

Video footages, like this one, which the members of the violent mob took while they were verbally and physically attacking the Muslim campaigners, and later circulated online, created an outcry with many described it as the latest example of the ‘growing influence’ of the Sangh Parivar ideology in Kerala.

A mob attack in which members of the same mob resort to violence and then make it public, is something new in Kerala.

In connection with the attack, the police arrested seven men the next day, but the accused were quickly released.

‘Wisdom Global Islamic Mission’ describes itself as an “endeavor for spreading the message of Islam to maximum people worldwide”.

The reading materials that the Wisdom campaigners were distributing were three Malayalam pamphlets and a booklet, respectively named as “The Path to Liberation”, “Islamic State: anti-religious, anti-human”, “One India, One people”, and “What’s the purpose of life?”

The message in these pamphlets include criticism of the so-called Islamic State, RSS and polytheism.

Muslim organisations in Kerala, however, condemned the attack and police action in a joint statement, and called the attack on the activists as part of the “efforts to destroy religious amity” in the state.

Panakkad Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal (Indian Union Muslim League), Bahauddin Mohammed Nadvi Kooriyad (Samastha), T.P. Abdullah Koya Maudany (Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen), M.I. Abdul Azeez (Jamaat-e-Islami Hind), Kunhimohammed Maudany Parappoor (Wisdom Global Islamic Mission), A. Najeeb Moulavi (State Jamiat Ulama), Thodiyoor Mohammed Kunhu Moulavi (South India Jamiayyathul Ulama), Abul Khair Moulavi (Tableegh), P.A. Fasal Gafoor (Muslim Education Society), and P. Mammad Koya (Muslim Service Society) signed the joint statement.

M.I. Abdul Azeez, head of the Kerala unit of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, met the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan last Monday, and discussed the matter. He wrote after the meeting, “I met the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan at his office today to invite his attention to the discriminatory approaches of Kerala police towards the Muslim minority community in Kerala.” He referred to both the Paravoor mob attack and the ongoing Hadiya case. He said that the chief minister ensured him of appropriate actions in the Paravoor incident, adding “the police will be instructed to take action against those who attacked the Wisdom Global members at Paravoor”.

In a statement published on August 21, T.K. Asharaf, the general convener of the Wisdom group, said that “bringing to the public the message of peace of Islam and to dispel misconceptions about the religion, as well as creating awareness against spiritual exploitation and terrorism” are some of the areas that the group focuses on. “Protecting the secular character of India” is another aim of the group.

CP Saleem, Secretary of the Wisdom group, said on 21 August during a press conference in Kozhikode that he and his fellow members of the group were shocked by the developments in Ernakulam. He said the campaigners were doing what the group has been doing in Kerala for years and last Sunday’s incident, in which he said “a violent mob appeared similar to what happens in North India”, and “attacked those who were returning after a peaceful home campaigning”. He called the attack “unprecedented” and “shocking”.

“It was a mob that brought the campaigners to the police station and even inside the station compound [also] the campaigners were beaten … those who were attacking the campaigners themselves took the videos and shared them on social media,” Saleem said, adding that it was “a special experience in which the victims felt whether they were really in Kerala”.

Saleem said Wisdom group has been organizing public programmes across Kerala as part of its ongoing campaign, “One India, One People”. He also said the programmes are being attended by several leaders of mainstream political parties and others.

Saleem had earlier said that the group’s ongoing campaign has been something that met no objection across the state except in the present case. “What is hurtful is that our members were caught by the Sangh Parivar and the police were acting as per the Sangh Parivar’s wish,” he told to a Malayalam news channel.

Opposition politicians too condemned the mob attack and the police action against the campaigners.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said “there must be strong action” against the attackers. He said he wrote a letter to the CM in this regard. V D Satheesan, another Congress leader and local MLA, alleged that the state police were implementing the ‘Sangh agenda’.

Some Muslim organisations, under the banner of the Muslim Coordination Committee, held a protest march near Kerala Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on August 21.

Sadik Uliyil, a leader of Solidarity Youth Movement, the youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, said that the police arrested the Wisdom campaigners for doing what activists of any other organisation would usually do.

“Police arrested people who were campaigning in broad day-light … Sangh Parivar, imitating what they do in North India, assaulted those who were doing public campaigning and later handed them over to the police … videos of the incident show the campaigners were brutally attacked … It’s not good for Kerala, which is ruled by the Left front, that things happen according to the wishes of the Sangh Parivar,” Sadik told a news channel.

Wisdom's pamphlets are, notably, familiar with state ministers and other people’s representatives, police officers, and leaders of various political parties including BJP, as the group’s activists meet people from different walks of life in order to share their views.