OF ITS OWN
Power Minister, was heard warning Chandy: “If you give them a fifth Cabinet berth, you’ll be the last Congress chief minister.” Congress is also worried about an open war against these moves by the Opposition, as well as smaller Hindu fronts. The Nair Service Society ( NSS), which represents Kerala’s 14 per cent upper caste Nairs, and Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam ( SNDP), which represents the state’s largest Hindu block of 24 per cent of Other Backward Caste ( OBC) Ezahavas, have decided to jointly fight this ‘ appeasement’.
This has strengthened the League’s clout within Muslims. Even groups like Popular Front of India ( PFI) and Jamaat- e- Islami, which the League calls “extremists”, have pledged support. Says PFI’S General Secretary P. Abdul Hameed: “The League is being attacked for its legitimate efforts to give the community its rightful place.”
None of this emerging power is evident in the soft- spoken demeanour of the Thangals. Sayyid Hyderali Shihab Thangal, 65, took over as the League’s president in 2009 after the death of his legendary brother Sayyid Muhammad Ali Shihab Thangal, who led the party for three decades. Unlike his elder brother, a graduate of Egypt’s Al Azhar University and a Sufi- poetry enthusiast, Hyderali is home- grown. Go to Panakkad and his power is palpable. He is just back from a trip to Dubai. A long queue of Muslim men and purdah- clad women wait patiently to seek his advice on problems ranging from family disputes to ailments. As he sits on a leather chair behind a large desk, petitioners take turns to whisper in his ear. He speaks in an undertone, beckoning the next in queue, and breaks the monotony with short invocations.
Hyderali does not comment on politics or religion. He speaks rarely and only after much persuasion. “We never play pressure politics. We’ll not grab anyone else’s rights. But we’ll not let others take what is due to the community. We also won’t hurt communal peace,” he says. He shrugs off murmurs within Congress against the
( LEFT) RALLY BYA RADICAL MUSLIM STUDENT FRONTAND ( BELOW) EZHAVA RALLY IN KERALA