On September 27, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India banned the Islamist organisation Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associated or affiliated fronts with immediate effect for a period of five years by exercising its powers under sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA).
It is noteworthy that PFI and its sister organisations have a presence in over 17 states in the country. Police and NIA had registered over 1,300 criminal cases against the cadres of PFI and its front organisations in different states. Some of these cases were also registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act/UAPA, the Explosive Substances Act, the Arms Act and other heinous sections of IPC.
In a gazetted notification, the GoI named its associates as 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.
The Indian government would be watchful how its action would now play out by the other side. Its such a massive blow to Breaking-India forces that a blowback should happen soon. Experts are viewing Curfew in Okhla, New Delhi as a measure to preempt any untoward agitation and resort to violence.
The government said that during the investigation, it was established that PFI created the associates or affiliates or fronts with an objective to enhance its reach “among different sections of the society such as youth, students, women, Imams, lawyers or weaker sections of the society with the sole objective of expanding its membership, influence and fundraising capacity”.
It was further mentioned that these organisations used their mass outreach and fundraising capacities to strengthen their capabilities for unlawful activities. It added, “The PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as a socio-economic, educational and political organisation, but they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country.”
Furthermore, PFI and its associates were found to be “indulging in unlawful activities which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country and have the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony of the country and supporting militancy in the country”.
The notification clearly established a link between PFI and the banned Islamist organisation Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). It further added that PFI is also linked to with Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), also a banned organisation. In several instances, PFI was found to be connected to global terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
It was pointed out that PFI members have joined international terrorist organisations. The government said, “The PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been working covertly to increase radicalisation of one community by promoting a sense of insecurity in the country, which is substantiated by the fact that some PFI cadres have joined international terrorist organisations in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.” GoI added that some of these cadres were killed in conflicts, and some were arrested by State Police and Central Agencies.
It was revealed that PFI’s involvement was found in several cases during the investigation, such as chopping off the limb of a college professor TJ Joseph and the murder of several persons, including one of the most recent ones where a Hindu activist Praveen Nettaru in Bellare town, district Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka. A total of ten accused were arrested in the case, and all of them were members of PFI. The local Police’s investigation revealed that the murder was planned by PFI and members of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which is the political front of PFI.
Other cases include the murder of Sanjith, an RSS worker in Kerala who was killed by cadres of PFI on November 15, 2021. In Tamil Nadu, the PFI cadres killed V Ramalingam (a Hindu leader) for challenging its Dawah activities in 2019. Other cases included the murder of Nandu (Kerala, 2021), Abhimanyu (Kerala, 2018), Bibin (Kerala, 2017), Sharath (Karnataka, 2017), R Rudresh (Karnataka, 2016), Praveen Poojari (Karnataka, 2016) and Sasi Kumar (Tamil Nadu, 2016).
Reports suggest that some AQ and ISIS training videos depicting gruesome murders had also been recovered from the PFI cadre accused in this case. Notably, such activities create fear and a feeling of terror among the members of other religious communities.
During investigations, agencies also recovered explosives and jihadi literature from the Padam forest area (district Kollam) in June 2021. PFI was using the forest area as a military training site. In April 2013, Kerala Police recovered arms and explosive materials from an arms training site in Narath (district Kannur). 41 PFI cadres were convicted in the case in 2016.
On July 4, a case was registered against one Abdul Khader, PFI’s Physical education instructor who had trained over 200 cadres of the organisation at his martial art training centre in Nizamabad. 26 other persons were also booked by the Police. During interrogation, it was revealed by the accused that PFI would be Muslim youth, specifically from the poor or middle class. They were instilled with anti-Hindutva ideology and imparted training that involved the use of swords and nun-chucks.
Funding of PFI
GoI mentioned that PFI and its associates conspired and raised funds not only from India but from abroad via banking channels, hawala and donations under a well-crafted criminal conspiracy. These funds were transferred, layered and integrated using multiple accounts to project these organisations as legitimate. However, according to the GoI notification, these funds were used to carry out “various criminal, unlawful and terrorist activities in India”.
It is noteworthy that upon an investigation of the PFI accounts, it was found that over 100 accounts were not in sync with the financial profiles of the account holders. The Income Tax department, therefore, withdrew the registration status of PFI under sections 12A & 12 AA of the IT Act.
The notification pointed out that the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat recommended banning PFI. Furthermore, it said, “The Central Government is of the opinion that if there is no immediate curb or control of unlawful activities of the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts, the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts, will use this opportunity to cause public disturbance, undermine the constitution of India, encourage and enforce terror based regime, propagate anti-national sentiments, radicalise particular section of the society and aggravate activities which are detrimental to the integrity, security and sovereignty of the country”.
It is noteworthy that in the last couple of weeks, the central agencies, including NIA and ED, along with state police, have raided over a hundred locations linked to PFI across the country. More than 150 cadres of PFI were arrested or detained, including its chief OMA Salam.