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PFI Calls Arrests 'Scare Tactics'; Kerala HC Calls Outfit's Sudden Strike 'Illegal'

News outlets have speculated on a possible ban on the PFI after what officials described was the "largest-ever investigation process till date". PFI has called the raids "harassment", said the NIA's claims are "baseless" and equated them with "scare tactics."

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New Delhi: The Kerala high court has taken suo motu cognisance of the dawn-to-dusk strike called by the Popular Front of India, in response to coordinated raids and arrests of its leaders. Meanwhile, sporadic incidents of violence were reported in various parts of Kerala as the strike got underway on Friday, September 23.

The strike was called by the PFI to protest against nationwide raids in the offices and residences of its leaders and their subsequent arrests on Thursday by the National Investigation Agency and other agencies. The NIA has claimed that the organisation allegedly supports terror activities in the country.

The PFI on Thursday had said a hartal will be observed in the state today “against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-controlled fascist government’s attempt to silence dissenting voices using the central agencies”.

The hartal will be held till 6 pm, A. Abdul Sathar, state general secretary, PFI, had said in the statement.

News outlets have speculated on a possible ban on the PFI after what officials described was the “largest-ever investigation process till date”. The organisation has called the raids “harassment” and said the NIA’s claims are “baseless” and equated them with “scare tactics.”

Flash hartal illegal: HC

LiveLaw has reported that the Kerala high court has strongly condemned and initiated suo motu proceedings against PFI leaders over the flash strike, citing that the court had in 2019 issued an order mandating a seven-day notice for strikes to ensure those not aligned with the cause of the strike are not inconvenienced.

A division bench of Justice A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias C.P. said that the PFI’s sudden call for strike amounted to contempt of court.

Sporadic violence in Kerala

Stones were pelted at Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses (KSRTC) in various districts including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kozhikode, Wayanad, and Alappuzha.

Local media reported that a petrol bomb was hurled at a vehicle which was carrying newspapers for distribution at Narayanpara in Kannur in the morning.

In Alappuzha, KSRTC buses, a tanker lorry and some other vehicles got damaged in the stone pelting allegedly by those supporting the hartal call.

A 15-year-old girl and an auto-rickshaw driver suffered minor injuries in the stone pelting allegedly by PFI activists in Kozhikode and Kannur respectively.

A statement issued by Kerala police said stern action will be taken against those who violate the law. “All the policemen in the state will be deployed for the maintenance of law and order,” the statement said.

106 functionaries held

On Thursday, PFI workers had taken out marches to the places where raids were carried out and raised slogans against the Centre and its investigating agencies. However, central forces were already deployed in all such places as part of strengthening the security.

Multi-agency teams spearheaded by the NIA had arrested 106 functionaries of the PFI on Thursday in near simultaneous raids at 93 locations in 15 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.

Kerala, where PFI has some strong pockets, accounted for the maximum number of 22 arrests, officials said.

PFI state president C.P. Mohammed Basheer, national chairman O.M.A. Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram, former chairman E. Abubacker and others were among those arrested.

Also read: Anti-CAA, Hathras, Hijab Outrage: How the Heat Was Turned Up on PFI Recently

In Bengaluru, a 12-member NIA team arrested Yasar Arafath Hasan, Anis Ahmed, Afsar Pasha, Abdul Wahid Sait, Mohammed Shakib Shakif, Muhammed Farooq Ur Rahman and Shahid Nasir and took them to Delhi, according to Times of India.

Talking to reporters, SDPI Dakshina Kannada district president Aboobakkar Kulai said the NIA officials have raided the offices without providing any reason.

In Maharashtra, raids were conducted by various ATS teams in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Aurangabad, Pune, Kolhapur, Beed, Parbhani, Nanded, Malegaon (in Nashik district) and Jalgaon.

At least 20 people were arrested and charged under Indian Penal Code sections including 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 121A (waging war against the government) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) besides provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

(With PTI inputs)