P MUJEEB RAHMAN, State President of Solidarity Youth Movement, Kerala, speaks to M SAJID on the new policies and programmes of the movement.
Solidarity Youth Movement was a bold decision of the Islamic movement in Kerala. What do you have to say about this?
Definitely it was a bold decision of Jamaat Kerala to form a youth movement. The target of Solidarity was to unite young people, prepare them to establish virtues and fight against evils. Solidarity addressed capitalistic imperialism, fascism and communalism as the major threats of our times. It worked hard to motivate revolutionary youth to fight these evils and participate in active social service. Because of these powerful efforts within a span of four years Solidarity is now a recognised name in the socio-political arena of Kerala.
Can you tell us about the major activities of Solidarity during these four years?
Solidarity’s motto is Service and Struggle. Within the last two years, we have built 450 homes for poor people irrespective of caste or religion. "Your donations + our physical efforts = homes to needy people" was the formula of the housing project. We got a very encouraging response from generous people. Our cadre built each of these houses themselves.
Solidarity penetrated into Adivasi and fisher folk areas and helped to solve many of their problems and injustices committed by authorities. A large number of Adivasis and fishermen participated in our recent district conferences thematised "Witness of Youth for Justice and Existence".
Many campaigns of Solidarity were unique in style and content. The 2004 campaign on drug abuse and addiction had a very positive impact. Another campaign "Youth’s call for a friendly Kerala" in 2003 when the state was besieged by communal riots was effective in blocking the fire of communalism. We countered emerging fascism in Kerala at many crucial junctures.
The theme of our first state conference attended by one lakh young people was "A Correction in Development for Human and Soil". The agenda of capitalistic imperialism behind the present development mania was unveiled through similar programmes. The proposed express highway project that would divide Kerala into two watertight compartments and cause serious ecological imbalance was resisted through popular struggle. The protest of Adivasis of Plachimada against corporate giant Coca-Cola was popularised through the intervention of Solidarity.
There were bouquets and, of course, brick-bats for Solidarity’s anti-imperialist struggles over the past four years. Critics say these struggles, especially the anti-Coca Cola movement in Plachimada, are part of fake activism and based on hidden agendas. How do you respond to such criticism?
Solidarity Youth Movement appeared on the fore at a time when so-called activism was about to vanish due to the massive influence of neo-capitalism. Those who speak about fake activism should explain what the true form of activism at this juncture is. Are they role models for activism? These people who criticise Solidarity have either forsaken their activism and surrendered their weapons to imperialism or dance to the tune of imperialists with the objective of de-politicising Kerala. What Solidarity has done over the past four years was to put up an exemplary performance in resisting various forms of imperialism using an ideological platform. For this purpose, we have not only reshaped the lives of our followers, but supported several anti-imperialist mass movements in various parts of the state. The movement got itself involved in the Plachimada struggle recognising the politics behind that struggle as also the momentum it provides for the collective anti-imperialist struggle. Consequently, the Plachimada struggle is now part of a broader anti-imperialist movement that provides a push for mass struggles against various forms of invasion. It is a real-life example of how the common people can contain corporate giants that monopolise natural resources and render life miserable, putting up a united fighting front with sustainable spirit, stability and unity. Those who view this struggle merely as an issue of drinking water barely perceive the politics behind it.
There is an environmental colour to almost all struggles taken up by Solidarity. Because of this, the movement is seen as a green organisation rather than a revolutionary youth movement. How do you explain this?
Kerala has an abundant wealth of natural resources. Unlike other Indian states, it has a large number of rivers, forests, underground water and valuable medicinal plants. Imperialist powers who have already targeted the oil wealth of West Asia and Gulf countries, are now eyeing the natural resources of Kerala, under the cover of tourism and development. It is therefore quite natural that the anti-imperialist struggles in Kerala take an environmental colour. These invaders violate the rights of whole mankind and other creatures on earth. Solidarity is duty-bound to resist such invasions and express solidarity with all sorts of anti-invasion struggles around the world. Those who honestly evaluate the movement’s interventions in national and international issues as well as its contributions in the field of social service cannot give an environmental colour to our activities and struggles as a whole.
Is there any fundamental base for the movement’s struggles and interferences, rather than a mere activist movement that gets involved whenever there are certain social issues only?
There is a strong fundamental base for the activities and struggles of Solidarity Youth Movement. The movement does not take up social issues just for the sake of doing it, nor as a gimmick to attract popular support. Solidarity’s involvement in any issue stems from fundamental stances that are inspired by the Islamic ideology. To a certain extent, the people in Kerala understand this. However, the movement is still in its infancy. Four years is not a period of maturity for any youth organisation. The major accomplishment of this movement was to rebuild activism at a time when Malayalee activism was about to vanish. Today, there are several examples of religio-political youth movements who keep a competitive spirit in dealing with issues affecting masses. Now, the movement has decided to prepare itself to face the serious challenges faced by Kerala by raising public awareness. This will be done through analysing these challenges philosophically and academically. Our new policy, therefore, underscores the significance of researching issues thoroughly, before reaching out to the public.
You indicated that the focal point of Solidarity’s struggles is anti-imperialism and that it is ideological. Because of the movement’s Islamic ideological roots, there is a possibility that Solidarity may also join the ranks of the global Muslim extremism that draws blood from anti-imperialism?
Islam plays a crucial role in the fight against imperialism. The Islamic society’s responses to imperialists are of various shapes and forms. There are some who have joined the imperialist side and do act as their tools. Others have not taken any stand against imperialism at all. Some youths have gone too far and approach imperialism in a communal and extremist way. In fact, their way of functioning creates a scenario in which the imperialists can easily attribute terrorism to Islam. On the other hand, we can find Islamic personalities and movements that have taken a totally different approach to strengthen the popular front against imperialism.
Solidarity would like to fight imperialism on the basis of Islamic values in a democratic way. The alliance that is taking shape against imperialism globally should gather strength in Kerala too. That’s why Solidarity presents Iran’s Mahmood Ahmedinajad and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez as symbols of anti-imperialist movements favouring the common mass. Strengthening such pro-people initiatives is part of our new policy.
What do you mean by ‘pro-people initiatives’?
Kerala is a state where, though the Left and Right parties have been depoliticised, the common people still maintain a strong political awareness against imperialism. Even the Left parties are not fully capable of grasping this mentality of the common mass. The people’s general feelings against neo-capitalist agendas, irrespective of their political inclinations, have created ripples in the state’s political and cultural spheres. The recent success of some political struggles, despite notable absence of mainstream political forces, and the presence of certain exemplary personalities, both in the regime and in the bureaucracy, and the massive appeal of their words are examples of this pressure politics. Solidarity would like to support this movement of the masses that have developed between the Left and Right fronts of the state. We are fully optimistic that we can correct governments and political parties by effectively using pressure politics.
Why has Solidarity ignored the fascism that has strong roots in India and in Kerala, despite your vigilant stances against imperialism?
Solidarity’s anti-fascist face is as strong as its anti-imperialist face. In fact, Solidarity is the youth wing of Jamaat-e Islami which plays a leading role in a national anti-fascist front. We have adopted a creative stand to fight fascism by forming an alliance of people who follow different religious faiths and who are secularists. We believe that we can eradicate communalism only through adopting non-communalist stances and by means of friendly and democratic debates. On several occasions, Solidarity has risen to the occasion and formed harmonious alliances that prevent society from falling into communal polarisation in the wake of sensitive incidents like Marad. We do not believe that the only face of fascism is physical attack and the only solution is physical retribution.
There are several instances in India where fascists have taken up arms and people in the government and bureaucracy support them covertly. There is imperialist support for the torture of Muslims in India. Under these circumstances, isn’t it only fair to support an armed resistance of the tortured people?
Solidarity does not believe in counter-communalism to fight communalism and counter-extremism to fight extremism. Extremism has never solved any problem in history. Moreover, as a community whose main duty is to guide mankind to God’s path, Muslims were not commanded anywhere to adopt such measures. History shows that the prophets of Islam faced the harshest treatment by their respective peoples. They overcame these trials through patience and putting up an ideological fight. In Kerala, those who have adopted extremism as a solution have caused the Muslim community to suffer more, instead of offering them safety and security. Their blunt acts on behalf of the community have done more harm than good and contributed only to their insecurity.
Capitalism has destroyed the self-esteem and will power of the youth. How far Solidarity has been successful in preparing the youth to face changes of the times?
Solidarity surfaced at a time when the youth of Kerala were made slaves of consumerist culture, adopting an apologetic approach to invasion. We presented to the people of Kerala a young line-up of activists who are revolutionary, socially-committed, ideologically-steadfast, and service-oriented. What distinguishes these youth is that they start their fight against capitalism by changing their own life-styles. But the movement has to gather more strength. It has to attract all youth, irrespective of religion or caste, and line them up to fight against social injustices and evils. It has to grow as a pressure group while at the same time being the strongest youth movement. We have drawn up a policy to empower the movement further during the upcoming term.
Solidarity’s fight against the pro-globalisation attitude of the UDF and its double-standards in implementing the Narendran package, as well as Jamaat-e-Islami’s support to the Left Democratic Front have helped them to grab power in the state. But, after a lapse of one year, no fundamental difference is seen in the governance of LDF. Do you feel you were let down by the LDF?
LDF’s rule during the past one year was not up to the mark as we anticipated. Though the government did take some steps like the debt relief commission for farmers and the eviction of illegal encroachments in Munnar, a lot of negative measures and actions by the government and some of the LDF allies have been their undoing. Factional fights in CPM and some of the coalition partners have resulted in a depiction of collective irresponsibility. The latest incidents that unveiled a strong politicians-mafia nexus, show the Left Front in a bad light, far from the values that have been propagated by the Left parties since long. Solidarity has stood up against all kinds of wrongdoings; the movement will continue this fight and so strengthen the pro-people initiative.
Solidarity welcomed the positive aspects of Narendran package brought by UDF while strongly protesting against its loopholes. This was one of the major issues in the previous assembly elections. The LDF manifesto did have some suggestions to fill the gaps, but the government is yet to take some step. Solidarity will come out strongly if LDF also goes along the same lines as UDF in this issue.
[P. Mujeeb Rahman can be contacted at email@example.com]