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New Delhi: Following two rounds of coordinated raids and the arrests of 247 members of the Popular Front of India (PFI), the Union government on Wednesday, September 28, banned the outfit for five years.
In a notification issued late Tuesday night, the Union home ministry said the Union government is of the opinion that the PFI and its affiliates have been involved in “subversive activities”, thereby disturbing public order and undermining the constitutional set up of the country and encouraging and enforcing a terror-based regressive regime.
The notification further accused the PFI of “propagating anti-national sentiments and radicalising a particular section of society” with the intention to create disaffection against the country.
Moreover, according to a report in NDTV, the government alleged that the PFI was found to have links with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), all three of which are banned under Section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The PFI has been added to the list of banned organisations under the same section of the anti-terror legislation.
The NDTV report also details that the home ministry notification claims that the PFI and its affiliates operate in the open as “socio-economic, educational or political” organisations but that it secretly works to radicalise a section of the population.
“And whereas, the central government for the above-mentioned reasons is firmly of the opinion that having regard to the activities of the PFI, it is necessary to declare the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts to be unlawful association with immediate effect,” the home ministry notification read.
Affiliate organisations of the PFI, such as the 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 have also been banned.
“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,” the home ministry notification claimed.
In another notification, the Union government empowered authorities to take action against these affiliate groups as well, including the seizure of their premises and the arrest of their leaders.
The PFI has been banned for a period of five years as of now.
Bommai lauds decision
The home ministry notification also noted that the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat had been recommending banning the PFI. On Wednesday morning, following the government’s decision to ban the outfit, Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai said the move would show all “anti-national” organisations in the country that they can not survive.
“For a long time, it has been a demand by the people of this country, by all political parties including the opposition CPI, CPI(M) and the Congress. PFI is the avatar of SIMI and KFD (Karnataka Forum for Dignity). They were involved in anti-national activities and violence,” Bommai said, according to PTI.
The chief minister also alleged that the PFI’s high command had gone across the border to Pakistan to get training.
The home ministry’s decision was also welcomed by Karnataka home minister Araga Jnanendra. “Recently, the NIA and police of several states had raided several of its activists and office-bearers and had gathered evidence. Such fanatic organisations were instigating a section of youth against the country,” he said.
On September 22, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out a series of coordinated raids at PFI offices and premises across the country. Apart from terror funding, the investigative agencies alleged that the outfit was involved in organising training camps for terrorists and radicalising youths so they would join it.
In the past, the PFI was alleged to have had links to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Delhi and the subsequent northeast Delhi riots. Further, it was alleged to have wanted to incite communal riots and spread terror in the aftermath of the Hathras gangrape.
Over 100 PFI members were arrested or detained following the raids on September 22. Thereafter, this number went up to 247 following another set of raids on September 27. Around 80 people, mostly office-bearers of the PFI and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) were arrested in Karnataka after an eight-hour operation by state police.
(With PTI inputs)