More than 100 members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested in early morning raids carried out on its premises by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and state police.
The raids were carried out in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Most of the arrests were made in Kerala, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, said a senior official, adding these raids were carried out against those suspected of involvement in terror funding and radicalisation.
In response to the raids, PFI said in a statement that it “strongly protests the fascist regime’s move to use agencies to silence dissenting voice.”
What is PFI?
The group describes itself as a “neo-social movement that strives for the empowerment of marginalized sections of India.”
PFI was launched in 2006 in Kerala after the merger of three Muslim organisations – National Development Front of Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and Manitha Neethi Pasari of Tamil Nadu.
PFI claims to have units in 22 states. Since its inception, the name of the organisation has surfaced in many communal clashes and political murders. With the broadening of its base, PFI shifted its headquarters from Kozhikode in Kerala to Delhi.
Why is PFI controversial?
In the recent past, PFI’s name has cropped up after almost every communal flare-up or busting of terror modules. The ED, which is probing the group under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) since 2018, suspects a financial link between PFI and violent protests in Uttar Pradesh against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
PFI is often accused of radicalising Muslim youngsters and maintaining a relationship with anti-national groups. Calls for a ban on the group have been sounded by critics.
Over the controversy on the hijab (the headdress worn by some Muslim women), the Karnataka government told the Supreme Court that student petitioners who challenged the hijab ban in state government institutions had been influenced by the PFI.
What is the organisational set-up of PFI like?
The highest decision-making body of PFI is the Executive Council, which oversees matters related to its political affiliate, the Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI), students’ arm Campus Front of India and women’s wing National Women’s Front.PFI’s national general secretary Anees Ahmad has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of targeting Muslims. Recently, PFI took up the legal cases of Muslims who were allegedly attacked by Hindus during Ram Navami festivities in BJP-ruled states.