Over 1,400 cases against PFI leaders, activists

The outfit also had a ‘secret wing which planned and executed revenge attacks’, agencies alleged

September 28, 2022 09:43 pm | Updated September 29, 2022 09:31 am IST - NEW DELHI:

PFI activists staging a protest march in the city during the Hartal called by them following the arrest of its leaders, in Thiruvananthapuram, on September 23, 2022.

PFI activists staging a protest march in the city during the Hartal called by them following the arrest of its leaders, in Thiruvananthapuram, on September 23, 2022. | Photo Credit: Mahinsha S

More than 1,400 criminal cases had been registered against the leaders and activists of the now-proscribed Popular Front of India (PFI) and its affiliates across the country over the years, according to investigating agencies.

Several PFI leaders and members were allegedly previously affiliated to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was banned in 2001. “The predecessor of PFI in Kerala, i.e. National Development Fund, was established by former SIMI leaders,” said a senior agency official.

Also read:The Popular Front of India, its origins, presence, and controversies

The PFI had a well-structured organisational setup at the national, State and local levels, with a 13-member national executive council headed by its chairman as the supreme decision-making body. Its national general assembly had representatives from each State. The outfit also had a “secret wing” which planned and executed “revenge attacks”, it is alleged.

According to the agencies, most of those accused of hacking to death Praveen Nettaru, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, in Karnataka’s Bellare on July 26 were affiliated to the PFI.

“Over the years, the PFI members have been involved in such violent crimes. In July 2010, the hand of a professor, T.J. Joseph, was chopped off. Then, there was an active involvement of the PFI and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) cadres in the 2020 Bengaluru riots. The NIA investigated two related cases and among the charge-sheeted, 47 belonged to PFI/SDPI,” said the official.

In June 2021, explosives were seized from the Padam forest area in Kerala. It was allegedly a PFI training site. “On February 16, 2021, the UP Special Task Force (STF) had arrested the national coordinator of PFI’s physical education division with explosives and detonators. In April 2013, the Kerala Police had seized arms and explosive materials from a camp in Narath. The NIA later took over the Narath case, in which 21 accused were convicted in 2016,” he said.

The PFI activists allegedly took part in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests during December 2019-March 2020. In Uttar Pradesh, 51 cases were registered to probe violent agitations against the Act. “The PFI-led Samvidhan Suraksha Andolan was among the prominent common platforms which coordinated the agitations. Also, the PFI’s role in the Delhi riots was investigated by the ED,” the official said, adding that the Hijab issue in Karnataka had also been blown out of proportion by its students’ wing, Campus Front of India.

Besides, several persons allegedly affiliated to the PFI, particularly from Kerala, had joined ISIS and indulged in terror activities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. “The PFI draws inspiration from the Muslim Brotherhood. It had observed August 30 as ‘Solidarity Day’ (when the Muslim Brotherhood government led by Mohammed Morsi was ousted in Egypt in 2013),” he alleged.

The agencies allege that the PFI’s funding source was also dubious. During the investigation, the Income Tax Department found that the deposits with respect to 36 of the 85 bank accounts of the PFI were not supported by the respective financial profile of account holders. Based on the findings, the agency withdrew/cancelled the registration granted to the PFI and also cancelled the tax exemptions of its NGO, Rehab India Foundation.

Following searches in 2020-21, the ED alleged that the outfit had created a well organised structure in Gulf countries for raising funds that were sent to India via the “hawala” channels and in the garb of payments for business dealings. The outfit had formed district executive committees in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“The India Fraternity Forum (IFF) and Indian Social Forum (ISF) were PFI’s overseas fronts to engage with the expatriate Muslims. Their executive committees were responsible for sending money to the PFI in India without leaving any trail,” said another official.

Taking note of its alleged role in disruptive activities, the Jharkhand government had banned the organisation in 2019.

Said to have its presence in 17 States, the outfit had come into existence on December 9, 2006. “Three organisations — National Development Front (NDF), Kerala; Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD); and Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP), Tamil Nadu, rechristened the ‘South India Council’ (a Bengaluru-based entity floated by NDF in 2004) as the ‘Popular Front of India’,” the official said.

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