The Kerala Unit of Indian Union Muslim League — an ally of the Congress Party — has suspended a district-level functionary for participating in a major, state-wide anti-CAA protest on Sunday.
KM Basheer, a vice president for the party’s Beypore assembly unit, has been suspended from his position after he participated in Sunday’s ‘Human Chain’ event co-ordinated by Left parties against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The organizers claimed that millions of people participated in the state-wide event.
Basheer, an influential leader for the UDF in the constituency, defended his actions, saying that there was no ban on participating in the protest, and pointed out that many League workers have been participating in all manner of anti-CAA protests over the last few weeks.
The action comes in the wake of widespread criticism that the Congress led United Democratic Front — of which the Indian Union Muslim League is the second biggest constituent — has been found lacking in enthusiasm when it comes to organizing anti-CAA protests.
The Congress Party is in the midst of its own ‘rebalancing act’, trying to attract its former vote bank of upper caste Hindus back into its fold.
A large chunk of upper caste Hindus have deserted the party in recent years due to a feeling that the Congress Party has ‘slipped into’ the hands of Christian leaders in recent years.
As such, the party has been less enthusiastic about opposing the CAA compared to the Left Front, which has been far more vocal in opposing the idea of making religion a criteria for deciding whether someone should be given asylum or not.
However, the balancing act by the UDF may cost crucial votes ahead of next year’s assembly elections.
Like Basheer, many Muslims in the state — who may be traditional supporters of the IUML — have warmed to the “decisive leadership” exhibited by Chief Minister and Left Front leader Pinarayi Vijayan on the CAA issue.
Vijayan was one of the first Chief Ministers in India to announce that his government will not co-operate with the central government’s move to create a National Register of Citizens or NRC before 2024. He even suspended the activities under the National Population Register program in the state.
In an equally unexpected move, Vijayan’s government has also challenged the CAA before the Supreme Court under a special provision designed to deal with disputes between state governments and central governments.
Reacting to the present controversy, KT Jaleel, minister for higher education in the Left Front government, rejected charges that his party was trying to make political capital out of a sensitive subject.
“We have never tried to make this a Left Front fight. We have always been asking the opposition (UDF) to join us as part of the broader coalition against the CAA,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker, arguably the most powerful Muslim religious leader in the state, has opposed street-level participation of Muslim women in anti-CAA protests.
A day after thousands of Muslim women are reported to have participated in the Human Chain program, he said there was no need for women to participate in street-level programs.
“They need to participate only if questions are raised on women’s support for the movement [which is not the case now],” he said.