India on September 29 banned Popular Front of India (PFI) and its front organisations for five years, noting that the organisations have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to India’s integrity, sovereignty, and securityand have the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony, and supporting militancy in the country.
The ban comes after raids conducted by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) against PFI members across India. Reports said that the raids on September 22 in 15 states across the country was code-named “Operation Octopus”.
OPERATION OCTOPUS; PFI BAN
Apart from PFI, the MHA also banned its front organisation – 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 ban comes on the heels of the two nation wide raids against PFI members on September 22 and 28.
The ministry in its notificationsaid the PFI and its associates, affiliates, and fronts have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to India’s integrity, sovereignty, and security, have the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony, and supporting militancy in the country. The MHA has also issued another order empowering States to notify places associated with PFI and its front organisations where unlawful activity is taking place. According to the order, District Magistrate will make a list of immovable properties of the organisation and make an order that no person who at the date of the notification was not a resident in the notified place shall, without the permission of the District Magistrate, enter, or be on or in, the notified place.
In a notification, the MHA said some of the Popular Front of India’s founding members are the leaders of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and that the radical outfit has links with the Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), both of which are proscribed organisations. The Ministry said that a number of instances of international linkages of PFI with Global Terrorist Groups like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were found. 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, it stated.
In the Notification, the MHA said the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organization 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.” “The 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 of disturbing public peace and communal harmony of the country and supporting militancy in the country. 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 the some PFI cadres have joined international terrorist organisations.”
Further the Notification said “the Office bearers and cadres of the PFI along with others are conspiring and raising funds from within India and abroad through the banking channels, and the hawala, donations, etc. 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 funds to carry out various criminal, unlawful and terrorist activities in India.
OPERATION OCTOPUS; STATES RAIDED
In the first crackdown on September 22, raids were conducted in Andhra Pradesh (4 places), Telangana (1), Delhi (19), Kerala (11), Karnataka (8), Tamil Nadu (3), Uttar Pradesh (1), Rajasthan (2), Hyderabad (5), Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar and Manipur. The agencies arrested 100 PFI workers, including the outfit’s chairman O M A Salam.
In the second nationwide crackdown on September 27, raids were held in several states including UP, Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Delhi. The agencies arrested as many as 250 PFI activists in the second raids.
OPERATION OCTOPUS; CASES
The Agencies held the raids in connection with five cases registered by the NIA. The cases were related to “continued inputs and evidence” that the Popular Front of India leaders and cadres were involved in the funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organising training camps for providing armed training and radicalising people to join banned organisations. Moreover, a lot of criminal cases have been registered in different states over the last few years against the PFI and its leaders and members for their involvement in many violent acts.
Some of the cases are listed below
- Chopping of a college professor’s hand in 2011 case in Kerala.
- Murder of RSS worker R Rudresh in Bengaluru in 2016, in which the NIA named Asim Shariff, president of the PFI’s Bengaluru unit, as an accused.
- Mysuru Police arrested Abid Pasha, a youth with PFI links, for the murder of Bajrang Dal worker K Raju. Pasha in 2016
- In 2017, the police in Dakshina Kannada arrested two PFI activists in connection with the stabbing of RSS worker Sharath Madivala, 28, in Bantwal town of the district. The murder was allegedly in retaliation for the killing of SDPI worker Ashraf Kalayi.
- Persons linked to the SDPI are accused in a 2019 attempt to murder Tanveer Sait, the multiple-term Congress MLA from Narasimharaja
- The 2019 murder of a social activist Ramalingam in the Thanjavur region of Tamil Nadu.
OPERATION OCTOPUS; PFI
The Popular Front of India came into existence in 2007 with the merger of three Muslim organisations in southern India — the National Democratic Front in Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity, and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu. The decision to merge the three outfi8ts was taken in 2006 at a meeting in Kozhikode in Kerala. The formation of the PFI was formally announced at a rally in Bengaluru during what was called the “Empower India Conference” on February 16, 2007.
The PFI that emerged in the aftermath of the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), claims itself as an organisation that fights for the rights of minorities, Dalits, and marginalised communities.
The PFI has never contested elections but has been involved in social and Islamic religious work among Muslims. It is said that a political outfit named Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) evolved out of the PFI in 2009, aimed at taking up the political issues of Muslims, Dalits, and other marginalised communities.