Clamour to ban PFI grows louder amid nationwide NIA, ED raids | Latest News India

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Following nationwide raids on the top leaders and office bearers of the Popular Front of India (PFI) on Thursday, the calls for banning the Islamic fundamentalist organisation have been revived.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and local police on Thursday launched multiple raids across 13 states – including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam – to crackdown on suspected terror-funding activities.

NIA claims that PFI has links several left-wing extremists and Dalit organisations that campaign on issues of police atrocities, fake encounters, alleged imprisonment of innocent people as under-trials by falsely implicating them in terror cases, and campaigning against the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

“All these activities are enough to ban the PFI,” said an officer who didn’t want to be named.

Also Read: Over 100 PFI leaders detained in largest-ever crackdown: 10 points

Under investigation in multiple cases for role in violent protests in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), alleged forced conversions, radicalisation of Muslim youth, money laundering and maintaining links with banned groups, PFI is not new to the ban controversy.

In January 2018, the then union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju had said the ministry of home affairs (MHA) was considering banning the PFI under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, which central agencies’ officials say will considerably restrict the activities of the outfit.

There has been no official movement on Rijiju’s claim till now.

Then, a proposal was sent by the then Uttar Pradesh police chief OP Singh in 2019 to the Centre asking to declare PFI as a proscribed organisation under the UAPA.

“What we found in our investigation is that PFI was quite assertive in their activities and had footprints in western UP. Various incriminating documents and other material, interrogation of almost 50 accused in eight cases revealed that PFI had links with terror activities, they were organising training camps and radicalising people,” Singh told HT on Thursday.

The NIA, which has investigated about a dozen cases linked to PFI, has also termed the outfit as a “threat to the national security” in one of its internal documents.

Being the central anti-terror agency, NIA is supposed to send a formal proposal for the ban, which will be considered by the MHA based on available material, according to people familiar with the process.

The formation of PFI was first announced on November 9, 2006 at Bengaluru. It now has roots in Manipur, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal besides having a strong presence in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Its leadership claims it has presence in 23 states.

The PFI also has a political group – Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) — which took part in panchayat elections in Kerala.

According to the NIA, PFI had more than 50,000 regular members and 1 lakh to 1.50 lakh sympathisers in Kerala, with an increase of 3% to 5% every year. These cadres are encouraged to act as guardians of Islamic values, effectively transforming them into moral police, NIA’s internal documents seen by HT reveal.

On PFI’s funding, the NIA says PFI receives funds through the India Fraternity Forum (IFF), started almost as a counterpart of the PFI in Gulf countries and its national dealers often visit Gulf countries for one reason or the other, including performing the Haj/Umrah, with the aim of discreet fund collection.

Subsequently, NIA adds, the Muslim Relief Network (MRN), a Kerala-based NGO launched by PFI, mobilises funds, especially from Gulf countries, by receiving donations from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah, and has established links with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the National Confederations of Human Rights Organisations. Besides PFI collects funds from 10 to 1,000 for purposes such as membership fee and Ramadan collection, it says, adding that Muslim businessmen and sympathizers are also asked to contribute generously to publishing books and magazines.

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