Responding to the allegations made by Enforcement Directorate sources that a "financial link" had been found between the Popular Front of India and anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests, the outfit rejected the claim as baseless and issued a statement offering a point-by-point rebuttal.
The PFI, a federation that was formed in 2006 as a successor to the National Democratic Front (NDF), recently came under the scanner of the Union Home Ministry for allegedly instigating demonstrators to clash with the Uttar Pradesh Police.
On Monday, reports quoted Enforcement Directorate "sources" saying that recent violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Uttar Pradesh had "financial links" with the Kerala-based outfit. The agency, which is probing PFI under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) since 2018, has found that at least Rs 120 crore were deposited in bank accounts in western Uttar Pradesh after the Act was passed by Parliament late last year, PTI reported.
A note written by the ED to the Ministry of Home Affairs was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying that PFI could also be linked to protests in other parts of the country. According to the report, the note indicates payments and withdrawals in "various areas around the time of the protests in December last year and January".
"The money trail has proved beyond doubt that PFI has mobilised the money to finance the cost of demonstration/gherao against CAA Bill till 06.01.2020. Further investigation to trace money trail from other bank accounts is continuing," the report quoted an anonymous official as saying.
The PFI, in its statement, challenged "those making the allegations" to offer proof. "Firstly, the news channels have attributed the report to Enforcement Directorate through some "unnamed sources" but the ED has not contacted our organisation, nor the ED has issued any such official statement regarding these allegations," the statement said.
The organisation also clarified the accusation of having funded various projects. Referring to the relief funds given by it to victims of the 2014 flood in Kashmir, the statement said, "Popular Front carried out extensive flood relief work in Kashmir in 2014 and built more that 100 houses for the flood victims which was also openly declared by the organization in 2014 itself through official publications. Assigning the 2014 flood relief as 2019 anti-CAA protest funding makes it clear that there is a planned vilification campaign going on against Popular Front to stop our growth."
Regarding the ED's allegation that the organisation also paid senior Congress leader and advocate Kapil Sibal and senior advocates Indira Jaising and Dushyant Dave, among others, the statement said that the money transfer to the lawyers in 2017 was in form of fees for the Hadiya case. The statement added that the transfer was "openly declared" by the organisation in public meetings.
"(The ED's) statement exposes the intention of the vested interested who are keen to blame Popular Front for everything that is happening in India [sic]," the organisation said.
Slamming the Uttar Pradesh and Assam governments for arresting the organisation's state leaders, PFI said that it "will not be bowed down by such cheap campaign by the forces backed by the fascist who want to stop us. We will continue our struggle against the fascist forces who try to suppress the voices of dissent [sic]."
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 27, 2020 20:17:03 IST