A day after the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided on terror suspects, workers from the Popular Front of India (PFI) protested in Kerala on Friday. Several violent incidents have been reported across the state, prompting the Kerala High Court to file a suo-moto case against these radical outfits. PFI called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal on Friday, vandalizing state buses, and attacking police.
A day earlier, over 100 people had been arrested in a massive crackdown on PFI networks across the country by the central probe agencies.
Karnataka’s minister said the procedure to ban the radical outfit was ongoing in the state when protests erupted in the neighbouring state of Kerala.
Popular Front of India (PFI) describes itself as an organization that works to empower the deprived on a socioeconomic, cultural, and political level. Central government authorities are investigating PFI for promoting radical Islam and recruiting terrorist organizations. NIA raided several PFI-related premises on Thursday.
An extensive crackdown on terror has resulted in the arrest of over 100 top PFI officials and leaders. Among those arrested were PFI chairman OMA Salam and Delhi chief Parvez Ahmed. In response to the raids and arrests, Obeydulla Noori, the general secretary of the PFI, said the group would not back down and continue to protest until all of its leaders were freed.
As PFI workers took to the streets to demand the release of their leaders, several incidents of vandalism and violence were reported throughout Kerala. In an attempt to detain workers, police were attacked, and windows of state buses were broken. There was an attack at Narayanpara in Kannur on a vehicle carrying newspapers for distribution with a petrol bomb.
An Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) office in Kannur was also attacked with a petrol bomb thrown by a two-member group. There were also similar attacks on RSS and BJP offices in Tamil Nadu yesterday night.
A suo moto lawsuit was filed against the PFI by the Kerala High Court following continued protests. State officials were asked to take strict action against PFI after it violated the high court’s order. Earlier in January, the high court ruled that organizations must give seven days’ notice before holding a protest shutdown in the state.
Controversies of the PFI
It has been alleged that the PFI incites violence, possesses weapons, and propagates extremism. A lot of the PFI controversies have caught the nation’s attention.
On 4 July 2010, PFI activists slashed away the right hand of TJ Joseph, a professor of Malayalam, on suspicion that he insulted Prophet Mohammed in one of his questions. A Student’s Federation of India (SFI) leader, Abhimanyu, was also murdered by CFI and SDPI activists inside Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, in 2018. CFI leader Sahal Hamsa stabbed Abhimanyu in a clash with the left-leaning SFI over graffiti, according to the charge sheet. Several PFI co-founders were SIMI leaders before the PFI was founded, so the PFI has been suspected of being a terrorist outfit since its inception.
PFI was alleged to have mobilized funds to “finance demonstrations and gherao against the CAA Bill till 6 January 2020” by the ED in a report submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in January 2021. The ED obtained the information while investigating the PFI’s role in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case registered in 2018.
According to the NIA, two cases of conversion of women to Islam and the PFI were strongly linked during its investigation of the Hadiya’ love jihad’ case in 2017. After the agency completed its investigation in October 2018, no “evidence of coercion” was found, so no charges were filed against the PFI.
A raid on eight offices of PFI was conducted in May 2019 to determine if the outfit, along with the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ), had a role in radicalizing those responsible for the Easter bombings.
The PFI Ban
Kiren Rijiju said the then minister of home affairs (MHA) considered banning the PFI under UAPA, an act that will significantly restrict the outfit’s activities, according to officials from central agencies. Rijiju’s claim has not been officially addressed.
A proposal for PFI’s proscription under UAPA was sent to the Centre by the then Uttar Pradesh police chief OP Singh in 2019.
The investigation revealed that PFI had footprints in Western UP and was quite assertive in its activities. Singh had stated that PFI had links to terror activities, and they organized training camps and radicalized people. This was shown by numerous incriminating documents, other materials, and interrogations of almost 50 accused in eight cases.
Although the Centre has begun working toward banning the prohibited outfit, sources have said that it will take some time to take action. According to media reports, the NIA will interrogate 45 PFI leaders under arrest first and then contact district-level and hyperlocal leaders who were in contact with senior functionaries.
Upon breaking all PFI modules, gathering evidence, and gathering witnesses, the government will seek a legal opinion to ban it. According to sources, there is no rush for the government to ban the PFI without concrete, direct evidence that can stand up in court.