PFI Outlawed: The many 'horrors' of the now-banned Muslim outfit
The ban came after over 150 people allegedly linked with PFI were detained or arrested in raids across seven states on Tuesday, five days after a similar pan-India crackdown against the group led to the arrest of over a hundred of its activities and seizure of several dozen properties
New Delhi: Popular Front of India (PFI), which has been declared as an ‘Unlawful Association’ by the central government, has for long been accused of involvement in violent acts, “instigating” protests like the one against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and having “links” with global terrorist organisations, including ISIS.
“The Popular Front of India and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been found to be involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up of the country, disturbing public order etc. which are prejudicial to the integrity, security and sovereignty of the country,” read a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The statement added that the ministry found it necessary to curb the nefarious activities of the organisation and has hence declared PFI along with its associates or affiliates or fronts including Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CFI), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala as an “unlawful association” under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Pan-India raids on Popular Front of India
The ban came after over 150 people allegedly linked with PFI were detained or arrested in raids across seven states on Tuesday, five days after a similar pan-India crackdown against the 16-year-old group had led to the arrest of over a hundred of its activities and seizure of several dozen properties.
History of PFI
On 19 December, 2006, the group was formed with the merger of the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and the National Development Front (NDF). It was formed after the Babri Masjid demolition and subsequent riots in 1993.
According to officials, PFI has been under the radar of security agencies for its alleged role in violent protests in different parts of the country against CAA, forced conversions, radicalisation of Muslim youths, money laundering and maintaining links with banned groups.
Also, it has been accused of killing people associated with organisations espousing other faiths, collecting explosives to target prominent people and places, supporting the Islamic State and destroying public property to strike terror among people.
NIA takes action
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has secured 45 convictions as part of earlier probes against PFI and has charge-sheeted 355 people in these cases, according to the officials.
Last year, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the Supreme Court that the central government is in the process of banning PFI, which has already been outlawed in several states, including Jharkhand. Mehta also claimed that many PFI officer bearers were found associated with the proscribed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
In January 2018, then Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said his ministry was considering banning PFI under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Following the anti-CAA protests and subsequent violence in December 2019, the Uttar Pradesh government also recommended the Centre ban PFI. The outfit was also accused of being involved in violence in Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal during last Ram Navami.
PFI has ‘over 50,000 members, cadre given training in martial arts’
According to law enforcement agencies, PFI has over 50,000 members and many sympathisers in Kerala. “The PFI cadre are encouraged to intervene and react even in minor cases against members of the Muslim community. They are also encouraged to act as guardians of Islamic values, thus effectively converting them into moral police.
“Its cadre are given training in martial arts and combat using sticks, knives or swords in their strongholds,” says a document prepared by an agency on PFI.
PFI is also accused of receiving funds from its sympathisers, mostly Indians based in the Gulf countries. It has branches in over two dozen states and union territories including Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Assam and Manipur.
‘Unlawful activities’ of PFI
PFI was involved in a series of violent activities, the most sensational being the chopping of the hand of professor T J Joseph for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed in a question paper, intelligence agencies have claimed.
Back in 2015, the first conviction of PFI came when a special court found 13 of its members guilty in this case. The court acquitted 18 others for want of evidence.
The case was initially investigated by the Kerala police but later transferred to NIA by the UPA government.
The Kerala government, in an affidavit before the Kerala High Court in 2012, had submitted that PFI was a “resurrected avatar” of SIMI and had active involvement in multiple murders, mostly of CPI(M) and RSS cadre.
Later on in 2016, another NIA court sentenced 21 PFI cadre to imprisonment for offences charged under various IPC sections, Arms Act, and the UAPA.
The prosecution case was that the accused persons, PFI and activists of its political wing the Social Democratic Party of India organised an arms training camp in Kannur’s Narath on 23 April, 2013.
The ED has also been probing PFI’s “financial links” following charges of fuelling anti-CAA protests, the February 2020 Delhi riots, the alleged conspiracy in the Hathras gangrape and death of a Dalit woman, and a few other cases.
Till now, it has filed two charge sheets against PFI and its office bearers before a PMLA court in Lucknow.
The first charge sheet was filed in February 2021 against PFI and its student wing Campus Front of India on money laundering charges. It has been alleged that its members wanted to “incite communal riots and spread terror” in the aftermath of the 2020 Hathras gang rape case. In the second charge sheet filed this year, the ED claimed a UAE hotel “served” as a money laundering front of PFI.
The PFI is also accused of organising a camp for imparting training to commit violent and terrorist acts.
(With inputs from PTI)
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