Why PFI Ban in India Now for 5 years?
Why PFI Ban in India Now for 5 years? Popular Front of India (PFI) is an Indian Muslim political organization, that engages in a radical and exclusivist style of Muslim minority politics. Formed to counter Hindutva groups, it was banned by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs under Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act (UAPA) on 28 September 2022 for a period of five years.
PFI was founded in 2006 with the merger of the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) and the National Development Front (NDF). The organization described itself as a “neo-social movement committed to empower people to ensure justice, freedom and security”. It advocates for Muslim reservations. In 2012, the organization conducted protests against alleged use of the UAPA law to detain innocent citizens.
PFI has often been accused of involvement in anti-national and anti-social activities by the Indian Government. In 2012, the Government of Kerala claimed that the organization was a resurrection of the banned terrorist outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), an affiliate of the Indian Mujahideen.
PFI has often been in violent clashes with Rashtriya Swayamsevak sangh (RSS) in parts of Kerala and Karnataka. Activists have been found with lethal weapons, bombs, gunpowder, swords by the authorities. Several allegations have been made on the organization for having links with terrorist organizations. such as Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
The organisation has various wings to cater to different sections of society, including the National Women’s Front (NWF) and the Campus Front of India (CFI). Including these wings, the ban by Ministry of Home Affairs extended to 8 affiliate organizations of PFI.
|Predecessor||National Development Front|
|Formation||22 November 2006; 15 years ago|
|Merger of||Karnataka Forum for Dignity,Manitha Neethi Pasarai|
|Type||Islamic activist organization|
|Purpose||Muslim political mobilitation|
Countering Hindu nationalism
|Chairman||OMA Abdul Salam|
|Vice Chairman||E.M Abdul Rahiman|
|General Secretary||Anis Ahmed|
|Remarks||Banned for five years, beginning 28 September 2022|
History of PFI
The PFI started in Kerala as successor to National Development Front in 2006. It went on to merge with the Karnataka Forum for Dignity of Karnataka and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamilnadu and later in 2009, with Goa’s Citizen’s Forum, Rajasthan’s Community Social and Educational Society, West Bengal’s Nagarik Adhikar Suraksha Samiti, Manipur’s Lilong Social Forum and Andhra pardesh’s Association of Social Justice.
A common platform was formed in cooperation with the South India Council as an outcome of a regional discussion attended by Muslim social activists and intellectuals from the South Indian States at Bangalore on 25 and 26 January 2004. It has taken up the issue of reservation in government and private sector jobs and Parliament and Assemblies and in cooperation with the Confederation of Muslim Institutions in India, it organaised a two-day workshop on Muslim Reservations on 26 and 27 November 2005 at Hyderabad, inaugurated by Rajya Sabha member Rahman Khan.
Criticism and accusations by PFI
The various allegations include connections with various Islamic terrorist groups, possessing arms, kidnapping, murder, intimidation, hate campaigns, rioting, Love Jihad and various acts of religious extremism. In 2010, the assault on prof. T.J. joseph who published a controversial question paper, supposedly insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad , was linked to the PFI.
One of its founding leaders has also states that PFI’s goal is to establish an Islamic State in India. However, the charges were denied by the organization, which added that the accusations were fabricated to malign the organization. An IB officer said that PFI preaches to its cadres that killing of right-wing activists would provide them ‘religious rewards in the afterlife’.
Murder of rival organization members
In 2012, the Kerala government informed the Kerala High Court, in an affidavit, that PFI had active involvement in 27 murder cases, mostly of cadres of CPI-M and RSS . In 2014, it again submitted before the Kerala High Court that activists of the NDF/PFI were involved in 27 communally motivated murder cases, 86 attempt to murder cases and in 106 communal cases registered in the state.
The affidavit was filed in response to a petition filed by Thejas, spokesperson of PFI in the State, challenging the refusal of the government to give government advertisements to the daily. A carpenter Abid Pasha was arrested for six murder cases. He had links with PFI.
On 6 July 2012, N. Sachin Gopal, a student of Modern ITC, Kannur and the district leader Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi parishad , was allegedly stabbed by members of the CFI and PFI. Student leader Vishal was murdered. Gopal later died of his injuries at KMC Hospital in Mangalore on 6 September 2012 A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed to investigate the case.
In February 2019, at least 1 member of PFI was arrested for murdering Ramalingam, a member of PMK after an argument with some Muslims about conversion activities. In August 2019, charges were framed against 18 members of PFI. Investigations claimed that Ramalingam was murdered as part of a conspiracy after he tried to interfere in the conversions lead by the Dawah team of PFI. In August 2021, the key conspirator Rahman Sadiq was arrested for the murder who was in hiding since 2 years.
On 21 May 2022, in a rally organised by PFI in Alappuzha, kerala called “Save the Republic”, a child sitting on the shoulder of another person raised the slogan “Hindus should keep rice for their last rites and Christians should keep incense for their last rites. If you live decently, you can live in our land and if you don’t live decently, we know Azadi (freedom). Live decently, decently, decently.”
After a video of the rally went viral, Alappuzha Police arrested the district president of PFI along with another activist. Police stated that the child cannot be booked due to the Juvenile Justice Act, but his parents instigated him. On the same day as the rally, Bajrang Dal had taken out a bike rally against terrorism. FIR was registered against Bajrang Dal members as well.
Links to terrorist organizations of PFI
In 2012, the Government of Kerala informed the High Court of their opinion that the activities of the PFI are inimical to the safety of the country and that it is “nothing but a resurrection of the banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in another form”, in its argument to ban the organisation’s Independence Day programme, dubbed “Freedom Parade”. The High Court dismissed the Government’s stand, but upheld the ban imposed by the State Government.
In July 2010, the Kerala Police seized country-made bombs, weapons, CDs and several documents containing Taliban and Al-Qaeda propaganda, from PFI activists.The raids conducted were subsequently termed “undemocratic” and “unconstitutional” by the organisation. As of 6 September 2010, as informed to the state high court by the Kerala government, no evidence has been found by the police in its probe into the allegation of links to Hizbul Mujahudeen, Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) or Al-Qaeda.
However, in April 2013 a series of raids by the Kerala Police on PFI centres across North Kerala found lethal weapons, foreign currency, human shooting targets, bombs, explosive raw materials, gunpowder, swords, among other things. The Kerala Police claimed that the raid revealed the “terror face” of the PFI. In January 2016, 1 member was sentenced to 7 years and 5 members were sentenced to 5 years of prison by National Investigation Agency (NIA).
In November 2017,Kerala police identified 6 members of PFI who had joined the Islamic State, possibly by moving to Syria using fake passports.
In November 2019, the Central Government provided Z category security to Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, one of the judges of the Supreme Court of India and part of the bench which passed the Ayodhya verdict.
Arms training camp in Narath
In April 2013, Kerala Police raided a training camp in Narath, Kannur and arrested 21 activists of the PFI. Two country-made bombs, a sword, raw materials for making bombs and pamphlets in the name of PFI were seized by the police. The raid was conducted at the office building of Thanal Charitable Trust. A document with names of several leading personalities and organisations was also seized, which police suspect is a hit-list.
The PFI leadership and those arrested claimed that it was a Yoga training progrrame organized as part of a personality development programme and asked for a judicial probe by a sitting judge to inquire into the alleged training camp. PFI’s state president claimed that this police case was fabricated in a bid to tarnish the organization’s image. On 18 May 2013, the NIA arrived to investigate the alleged extremist activities in Narath.
Kidnap and murder of boys for ransom
Two boys were kidnapped on 8 June 2011 from SBRR Mahajana College premises in Mysore and murdered by members of Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD), who sought ransom of 5 crore rupees to raise funds for their organisation. Following the arrest of these KFD members, Karnataka state government requested the Union government to ban Karnataka Forum for Dignity.
SMS campaign against people of the North-East After the Assam riots in 2012, an SMS hate campaign was launched in the South of India threatening people from the North-East with retribution, particularly after Ramzan. Investigators traced the source of these hate messages to Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) and the PFI, along with its affiliate organisations Manita Neeti Pasarai and Karnataka Forum for Dignity.
More than 60 million messages were sent in a single day on 13 August 2012. Some 28-30 percent of the messages were found to have been uploaded from Pakistan. The SMS campaign was designed to create a panic among the people from the North-East, forcing them to flee. This led to a mass exodus of 30,000 people from cities of Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and national capital Delhi. Union Home Ministry banned bulk SMS and MMS for 15 days to quell rumors and threats.
Ban by Indian government
On 22 September 2022, the National Invesr (NIA) with other probe agencies conducted a large-scale midnight operation termed “Operation Octopus” in the premises of the organization across the country, on charges of terror-funding and money laundering. The raid resulted in the detaining of at least 100 PFI leaders and activists.
The following day, PFI called h (strikes) in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which turned violent. In Kerala, the strike resulted in property damages worth approximately ₹5 crores and arrest of thousands of protestors.
A second round of nationwide raids were carried out on 27 September 2022, resulting in further 247 activists being arrested.
On 28 September 2022, the Government of India declared PFI as “unlawful association” and temporarily banned the organisation for five years under the UAPA act. The government reasoned that the organisation was “prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country” and citied PFIs alleged connection with terror organisations like Students Islamic Movement of India, Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
PFI’s 8 associate organisations Rehab India Foundation, Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organization, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala were also banned.
The PFI has denied the accusation.
Attack on T. J. Joseph by PFI activists
Main article: Attack on T. J. Joseph
In Jan 2011, Kerala Police filed a charge sheet against 27 alleged PFI activists in conjunction with an incident in which they severed the hand of a Kerala professor who had allegedly made derogatory references to the Islamic prophet Muhammad . At the time of the attack, Joseph was coming back from his duties at a private Christian college in Muvattapuzha and had been accused of blasphemy.