PFI national chairman holds government office in Kerala, sparks row
Working as a senior assistant with the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), Salam is currently posted at the Manjeri (Malappuram) SEB circle office.Updated: Jul 05, 2020 14:10 IST
The Popular Front of India (PFI), which is under the scanner for alleged anti-national activities and fanning violence during the anti-CAA protests, is in the news lately after its national chairman Mohammed Abdul Salam Ovungal, 47, better known as OMA Salam, was reported to hold a state government office in Kerala.
Working as a senior assistant with the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), Salam is currently posted at the Manjeri (Malappuram) SEB circle office, documents with the Hindustan Times show which was later clarified by the SEB headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram.
Is it possible for a government official to be part of an outfit marred by many controversies? Senior officials of the SEB say a strict no to it, adding that nobody has made any complaints in this regard and no criminal case is pending against him, at least in Kerala. Though the SEB vigilance department had made some inquiries in this regard last year but it was dropped later. The state service rules stipulate that a government employee should not be an active member of any organisation other than the service-related recognised trade unions.
“There are around 36,000 employees with the state electricity board. Usually, during the joining period, there is a verification of personal details and credentials. If any case or complaints surface later, we have an internal mechanism to check it and take action against the erring,” said a senior SEB official who did not want to be named.
Salam joined the SEB in 2000, his records also show he made some seven foreign trips in the last six years or so under “personal trips” by seeking permission from the SEB. There are many allegations against the PFI, including one where it is alleged that it used to get regular funding from some West Asian countries - some of the foreign trips of its functionaries are also under the intelligence radar now.
Salam was elected as the chairman of the PFI in February at its general assembly meet held in Puthanathani in Malappuram district. A PFI insider said he was active in the organisation since it was floated in 2006.
“He is working in our office. Since I joined the Manjeri department office last month I have no other details about him,” said deputy chief engineer of Manjeri region P Ramani. Salam was not reachable for his comments.
The PFI was launched in Kerala in 2006 after merging three Muslim outfits floated after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 - the National Development Front of Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and Manitha Neethi Pasari of Tamil Nadu. Now, the PFI claims it has units in 22 states. Majority of the PFI leaders are from Kerala and some of them are former members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
The PFI calls itself a neo-social movement committed to empowering people belonging to the minority communities, Dalits and other weaker sections of the society. In a short span of time, it became popular among Muslim youth. “Live with pride in India” is its guiding principle. On the lines of the RSS, the PFI has uniforms and often conducts drills at public places. In 2013, the Kerala government had banned its freedom parade - which it conducts on the Independence Day - after the police found its cadres were carrying stars and emblems on the uniform.
Every year on February 17, it conducts unity marches at all its district headquarters. It has cadre training centres in many districts and usually associates with many human rights organizations to get a sombre outlook, police officials said. It’s religious school ‘Sathya Sarani’ in Manjeri was in the news after parents of some Hindu and Christian girls alleged that it was a conversion hub. Akhila Ashokan alias Hadiya Jehan, a dentist who embraced Islam and later married a Muslim youth, was reportedly converted here.
In Kerala, the PFI was mired in many clashes and political murders. It was allegedly involved in at least 30 political murders in the past decade. In 2015, 13 of its workers were awarded life-term for chopping the palm of a college professor, TJ Joseph, who prepared a question paper which was alleged to be blasphemous. Two years ago, six PFI activists were held in connection with the murder of an ABVP leader in Kannur and nine were arrested for allegedly killing SFI leader Abhimanyu at Maharajas College in Ernakulam. After last year’s protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act turned violent in many parts of the country, there was a demand to ban the organisation.