Malappuram: In a massive nationwide crackdown against Popular Front of India (PFI), the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday raided properties linked to it.
A total of 106 PFI leaders have been arrested so far from 11 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.
The maximum number of arrests were made in Kerala (22) followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka (20 each), Andhra Pradesh (5), Assam (9), Delhi (3), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry (3), Tamil Nadu (10), Uttar Pradesh (8) and Rajasthan (2).
The NIA action is in collaboration with Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The anti-terror agency launched on Thursday morning the massive search operation against groups, including PFI, and individuals allegedly supporting terrorists, officials said.
In the "largest-ever investigation to date", the searches are taking place on the premises of those allegedly involved in terror funding, organising training camps, and radicalising people to join proscribed organisations, officials said.
PFI stages protests
Members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) on Thursday staged protests across Kerala against the raids. A PFI source said protest marches were carried out in almost all districts including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur.
"The searches were mainly carried out in the offices of the state and district committees and the houses of its office-bearers. Though we initially thought the searches were conducted by the Enforcement Directorate, it has become clear later that it was by the NIA," a person said.
PFI state president C P Mohammed Basheer, national chairman O M A Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram and others were among those in custody, the source added.
It is expected that tThose in custody would be brought to the NIA office in Kochi.
The offices of PFI Pathanamthitta District Secretary Mundu Kottakkal Sadiq are among the places checked.
A pen drive was seized from PFI leader Karamana Ashraf Moulavi's house at Poonthura on the coast of Thiruvananthapuram.
The houses of Salam and Moulavi have been raided in the past as well.
'Raids to silence dissenting voices'
The PFI issued a statement soon after it came under NIA action.
"The raids are taking place at the homes of national, state and local leaders of the PFI. The state committee office is also being raided. We strongly protest the fascist regime's moves to use agencies to silence dissenting voices," PFI said in a statement.
Later addressing a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram, outfit's state president Ashraf Maulavi said those who believe and act following the Constitution of the country should expect such fascist moves against them in the RSS-ruled India.
"Through such deeds, the Centre is actually indulging in anti-constitutional activities. The public society should raise its voice against such practices to protect the country," he said.
He said the central investigating agencies were trying to create a smoke screen against the outfits which have been functioning democratically and legal steps would be taken against such acts after consulting with the national leadership.
The leader also claimed that the documents reportedly seized during the raids, were only public relations stuff used by the outfits for its campaign.
The ED has been investigating the PFI's alleged "financial links" on charges of fuelling the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in the country, the 2020 Delhi riots, alleged conspiracy in Hathras (a district in Uttar Pradesh) over alleged gang-rape and death of a Dalit woman, and a few other instances.
The Popular Front of India was formed in 2006 in Kerala and is headquartered in Delhi.
Amit Shah holds meet, action likely against PFI
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday held a meeting of top officials, including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and is believed to have discussed the searches at premises linked to the Popular Front of India and action against terror suspects, officials said.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, and Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) Dinkar Gupta were among the top officials who attended the high-level meeting.
Shah is said to have taken stock of the action taken against the terror suspects and activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) across the country, an official said.
(With PTI inputs)