Web posted at: 1/22/2007
Source ::: The Peninsula / By John Mary
The pro-Muslim National Development Front (NDF) is planning to bring together friendly organisations under the banner of Popular Front of India, aimed at reaching out to the rest of the country with its campaign for the oppressed and the minorities.
NDF has already tied up with Forum for Dignity in Karnataka and 'Manita Neeti Pakaren' in Tamil Nadu and been organising seminars, focusing on secularism, in parts of the country. The Popular Front of India is due likely to be launched next month.
NDF has had a chequered existence ever since it was formed in 1993 in northern Kerala in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition the previous year.
It seeks to ensure rights of all citizens with a focus on the oppressed and minorities but it has not been able to reach out to communities, with even the mainstream Indian Union Muslim League afraid to ally with it openly for fear of backlash from other communities.
The late Mukundan C Menon, a prominent rights activist, had been a staunch proponent of the NDF. Its newspaper, Thejas, has as its executive editor, N P Chekkutty, a former chief of news and current affairs with the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-backed Kairali TV channel and chief reporter with The New Indian Express.
But its name had often been sullied with activists, flaunting their NDF association, threatening members of the Muslim community who seek to assert their secular independence.
NDF has been organising "freedom parade" on the Indian Independence Day on August 15, with a slogan "Be the sentinel of freedom".
However, its detractors believe the NDF is a fundamentalist militant Islamist, working with ulterior motives.
The State police have deposed against it and Samastha Kerala Sunni Students Federation (SKSSF), student organisation of the pro-Muslim League Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulema, had branded the NDF as an extremist outfit along with Jama'at-e-Islami and the branded Students Islamic Movement of India.
It's perhaps the limited appeal in Kerala and the opposition from within the community that has forced NDF to spread the canvas outside the State. By launching aggressive pan-Indian campaigns on secularism and human rights, NDF is looking for an image makeover.