In a nationwide crackdown, 109 leaders and activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested. These arrests were made by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the police during searches conducted across 15 States.
- The National Investigation Agency launched a massive nationwide search operation in connection with anti-terror activities.
- The clampdown was based on inputs that the accused were funding terror acts, organising weapon training camps and radicalising people to join banned outfits.
What is ‘Popular Front of India’?
- The PFI was founded in 2007, a year after the merger of three Muslim groups — National Democratic Front in Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu.
- A decision to bring the three outfits together was taken in November 2006 at a meeting in Kozhikode in Kerala.
- The organisation emerged in the aftermath of the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
- PFI is most active in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. However, now it has presence in around two dozen states and a well-established organisational structure in a dozen states.
- PFI calls itself a socio-political movement that strives for the empowerment of the Muslims and other marginalised sections of society
- It describes itself as a cadre-based movement, which is developed through routine training and education regarding management, leadership and mass mobilisation.
- The PFI has itself never contested elections. It has been involved in carrying out social and Islamic religious work among Muslims.
- The Social Democratic Party of India, (SDPI), formed in 2009, is PFI’s political front.
Why this group has been on the radar of investigating agencies?
- Cadres involved in violence —
- In 2010, some members of the PFI attacked T.J. Joseph, a professor in Ernakulam district of Kerala, chopping off his right palm.
- He was targeted over a question paper he set for a college examination that had some references to the Prophet, which the attackers said were insulting.
- Back in 2012, the then Kerala government had informed the High Court that PFI was nothing but a resurrection of the banned outfit SIMI in another form.
- Followed a multi-pronged operational strategy to communalise the society —
- As per the dossier (document) on PFI prepared by the NIA, PFI followed a multi-pronged operational strategy that aims to —
- communalise the nation’s polity,
- encourage and enforce Taliban brand of Islam,
- Heighten existing social divisions.
- The dossier was prepared in 2017 to push the home ministry for a ban on the outfit.
- But it could not be declared an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 as officials were divided on the subject.
- Responsible for imposing religious orthodoxy —
- Investigation agencies allege that PFI is responsible for imposing religious orthodoxy and puritanism (censorious moral beliefs) amongst Muslims.
- It is also involved in propagating Dawah or Islamism through its dedicated cadre and institutions like Sathyasarini or Markazul Hidaya Educational and Charitable Trust in Manjeri, Malappuram district of Kerala.
- Involvement in money laundering — In June 2022, the ED accused the organisation of money laundering, claiming that it had received over ₹60 crore since 2009, including cash deposit of over ₹30 crore.