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India

NIA, ED Raid: 106 PFI Leaders Arrested In ‘Largest-Ever’ Raids In 11 States Over Terror Funding Charges; Here’s All You Need To Know

In a first-ever largest action, a joint team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and state police forces have arrested 106 PFI leaders during raids across 11 states.

Officers of National Investigation Agency (NIA) with police personnel during a raid at the residence of a functionary of Popular Front of India (PFI), in Madurai, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. NIA along with other agencies conducted raids at the offices of Popular Front of India (PFI) and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) across the country as part of its search against people supporting terror groups, on Thursday. (PTI Photo)
Officers of National Investigation Agency (NIA) with police personnel during a raid at the residence of a functionary of Popular Front of India (PFI), in Madurai, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. NIA along with other agencies conducted raids at the offices of Popular Front of India (PFI) and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) across the country as part of its search against people supporting terror groups, on Thursday. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: In near simultaneous raids across the length and breadth of the country, a multi-agency operation spearheaded by the National Investigation Agency on Thursday led to the arrest of 106 activists of the Popular Front of India in 11 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country, officials said.

What is PFI?

PFI stands for The Popular Front of India, that is an extremist Islamic organisation in India. Back in 2006, the PFI is launched as a successor to National Development Front (NDF) and united with the National Development Front, Manitha Neethi Pasarai, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and several other organisations.

The PFI mark out themselves as a neo-social movement devoted to empower people to ensure justice, freedom and security. The group has various wings to cater to different sections of society, including the National Women’s Front (NWF) and the Campus Front of India (CFI).

Roots of PFI

The roots of the PFI can be traced to a state organization that existed in Kerala in the 1990s, the National Development Front (NDF). The NDF was formed in 1997, in the wake of a reactionary Islamist wave that emerged in response to the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid by a Hindu mob. The original NDF leadership comprised nineteen so-called Supreme Members of which one, P. Koya, had previously founded a now-disbanded terrorist group, the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

NIA Dossier 2017

PFI is indulging in actions detrimental to the overall national security of India. Investigators have accused PFI of encouraging Taliban brand of Islam and communalising the nation’s polity. NDF in its new avatar of PFI is pursuing a secret agenda camouflaged by an exterior human rights facade, with its founding leaders groomed deep in SIMI ideology says the secret document.

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The agency hah sighted details of four cases in which the PFI is said to be involved. They include chopping of a professor’s wrist in Kerala’s Idukki district, the murder of Rudresh an RSS leader in Bengaluru, the Islamic State Al-Hindi module case plotting attacks in south India and the case of an ongoing training camp in Kannur from where bombs, IEDs and swords were recovered.

The maximum number of arrests were made in Kerala (22) followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka (20 each), Tamil Nadu (10), Assam (9), Uttar Pradesh (8), Andhra Pradesh (5), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry and Delhi (3 each) and Rajasthan (2).

According to the officials, the arrests were made during the raids which have been termed as the “largest-ever investigation process till date”. Details of the arrested activists were not available immediately, but officials said the arrests were done by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the police forces of 11 states so far.

The officials said the searches are taking place at the premises of persons involved in terror funding, organising training camps, and radicalising people to join proscribed organisations. Formed in 2006, the PFI claims to strive for a neo-social movement ostensibly for the empowerment of marginalised sections of India.

It is, however, often accused by law enforcement agencies of promoting radical Islam. In a statement, the PFI said “the raids are taking place at the homes of national, state and local leaders of PFI. The state committee office is also being raided”. “We strongly protest the fascist regime’s move to use agencies to silence dissenting voices,” it said.

The ED has been investigating the PFI’s alleged “financial links” on charges of fuelling the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in the country, the 2020 Delhi riots, alleged conspiracy in Hathras (a district in Uttar Pradesh) over alleged gang-rape and death of a Dalit woman, and a few other instances.

The Popular Front of India was formed in 2006 in Kerala and is headquartered in Delhi. The probe agency has filed two charge sheets against PFI and its office-bearers before a special PMLA court in Lucknow.

In February last year, the ED filed its first charge sheet against PFI and its student-wing Campus Front of India (CFI) on money laundering charges, claiming its members wanted to “incite communal riots and spread terror” in the aftermath of the Hathras gang rape case of 2020.

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Those named in the charge sheet include K A Rauf Sherif, national general secretary of CFI and a member of PFI; Atikur Rahman, national treasurer of CFI; Masud Ahmed, Delhi-based general secretary of CFI; journalist “associated with PFI” Siddique Kappan; and Mohammed Alam, another CFI/PFI member. In the second charge sheet filed this year, the ED had claimed that a hotel based in the UAE “served” as a money laundering front for the PFI.

(With Inputs from PTI)