Popular Front banned for 5 years under anti-terror law

Representational image.

New Delhi: The Popular Front of India (PFI) has been banned for a period of five years with immediate effect under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The notification proscribing the Islamic organisation was issued by the Union Government on Wednesday. Its associates, affiliates or fronts too have been banned. 

In exercise of the powers under Sec 3(1) UAPA, the Central Government declares the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associates or affiliates or fronts as “unlawful associations”, the notification stated.

The ban follows the massive crackdown on the PFI by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the past few days. Several leaders of the front have also been detained.

The organisations which were also declared banned include Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CF), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation (NCHRO), National Women's Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.

Security tightened outside NIA office ahead of interrogation of PFI leaders taken into custody. Photo: Manorama

'Secret agenda to radicalize'

"PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as a socio-economic, educational and political organization, but they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalize 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," said the government notification.

The notification said PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country and have the potential to disturb public peace and communal harmony of the country and support militancy in the country.

It further said some of the PFI's founding members are the leaders of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and PFI has linkages with Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), both of which are proscribed organisations.

PFI members protest against NIA raids in Kasaragod. Photo: Manorama

It said there had been many instances of international linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Home Ministry said Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat governments had also recommended a ban on PFI.

The home ministry claimed investigations have established clear linkages between PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts.

It said Rehab India Foundation collects funds through PFI members. Some PFI members are also members of Campus Front of India, Empower India Foundation, and Rehab Foundation, Kerala. The activities of Junior Front, All India Imams Council. National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation and National Women's Front are monitored/coordinated by the PFI leaders, the notification claimed.

PFI created these associates or affiliates or fronts to enhance its reach among different sections of the society such as the youth, students, women, Imams, lawyers or weaker sections of the society with the sole objective of expanding its membership, influence and fund-raising capacity, it said.

State governments empowered to take action

The Centre, through another notification, empowered the state governments to take action against these groups which were affiliated with the PFI and the possible action against them could be seizure of places and arrest of their members.

The home ministry said these associates or affiliates or fronts have a 'hub and spoke' relationship.

PFI acts as the hub and utilises the mass outreach and fund-raising capacity of its associates or affiliates or fronts to strengthen its capability for unlawful activities and these associates or affiliates or fronts function as "roots and capillaries through which the PFI is fed and strengthened", the ministry claimed.

The PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic educational and political organisations. But they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society, working towards undermining the concept of democracy and showing sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional setup of the country, it alleged.

A rally by PFI members during the nationwide hartal against NIA crackdown on the outfit. Photo: Manorama

Criminal actions

Criminal violent acts carried out by PFI include chopping off the limbs of a college professor, cold-blooded killings of persons associated with organisations espousing other faiths, obtaining explosives to target prominent people and places and destruction of public property, it said.

Read more on: How Kerala lecturer hand chop case from 2010 used as reference for NIA raids in PFI premises

The notification also mentioned the names of several people who were alleged victims of the PFI's "brutal" violence and most of them belong to Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The home ministry said there had been many instances of PFI's linkages with global terrorist groups and some activists of its PFI have joined ISIS and participated in terror activities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of these PFI cadre were killed in these conflict theatres and some have been arrested by state police and central agencies, the Centre claimed.

The home ministry claimed the office bearers and cadre of PFI along with others are conspiring and raising funds from within India and abroad through banking channels, hawala and donations among others as part of a "well-crafted criminal conspiracy", and then transferring, layering and integrating these funds through multiple accounts to project them as legitimate and eventually using these for various criminal, unlawful and terrorist activities in India.

The sources of deposits on behalf of PFI with respect to its several bank accounts were not supported by the financial profiles of the account holders and the activities of PFI were not being carried out as per their declared objectives. Therefore, the Income Tax Department cancelled the registration granted to PFI under section 12A or 12AA of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (43 of 1961), it said.

The Income Tax Department also cancelled the registration of Rehab India Foundation.

Over 150 leaders detained

More than 170 people allegedly linked to the PFI were detained or arrested in raids across seven states on Tuesday, five days after a similar pan-India crackdown against the group often accused of being linked to radical Islam.

Conducted mostly by state police teams, the raids were spread across Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi, Maharashtra, Assam and Madhya Pradesh.

On September 22, multi-agency teams spearheaded by the NIA arrested 106 leaders and activists of the PFI in 15 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country. The NIA is investigating 19 cases involving the PFI.

There was no immediate reaction from the PFI, which was formed in 2006 and claims to strive for a neo-social movement ostensibly for the empowerment of marginalised sections of India. It is, however, often accused by law enforcement agencies of promoting radical Islam. The organisation was formed in Kerala and is headquartered in Delhi.

In Kerala the raids were conducted at the homes of PFI's  national, state and local leaders and its offices at various places including that of the state committee.

"We strongly protest the fascist regime's moves to use agencies to silence dissenting voices," the PFI had said in a statement soon after the initial raids last week.

(With PTI inputs.)


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