NEW DELHI — India’s federal government has banned the Popular Front of India (PFI), which has been accused of having “links” with global terror groups, for five years following two rounds of coordinated crackdowns against its leaders on Tuesday.
The ban also covered several of PFI’s associate organizations, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
The organizations that were also declared banned under the stringent anti-terror law, UAPA, include Rehab India Foundation (RIF), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.
The students’ wing Campus Front of India (CF) and Junior Front, which groups young children, have also been banned.
More than 150 people allegedly linked with PFI were detained or arrested in raids across seven states on Tuesday, five days after a similar pan-India crackdown against the 16-year-old group led to the arrest of over a hundred of its leaders and seizure of several dozen properties.
In a notification issued late Tuesday night, India’s home ministry said the government was of the opinion that the PFI and its affiliates were involved in “subversive activities, thereby disturbing public order and undermining the constitutional setup of the country and encouraging and enforcing a terror-based regressive regime.”
The notification further accused the PFI of “propagating anti-national sentiments and radicalizing a particular section of society” with the intention to create disaffection against the country.
According to a report in NDTV, the government alleged that the PFI was found to have links with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), all three of which are banned under Section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The PFI has been added to the list of banned organizations under the same section of the anti-terror legislation.
The NDTV report also details that the home ministry notification claims that the PFI and its affiliates operate in the open as “socio-economic, educational or political” organizations but that it secretly works to radicalize a section of the population.
“And whereas, the central government for the above-mentioned reasons is firmly of the opinion that having regard to the activities of the PFI, it is necessary to declare the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts to be unlawful association with immediate effect,” the home ministry notification read.
On September 22, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out a series of coordinated raids at PFI offices and premises across the country. Apart from terror funding, the investigative agencies alleged that the outfit was involved in organizing training camps for terrorists and radicalizing youths so they would join it.
The PFI had been persistently denying all the accusations against it.
In the past, the PFI was alleged to have had links to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Delhi and the subsequent northeast Delhi riots. Further, it was alleged to have wanted to incite communal riots and spread terror in the aftermath of the Hathras gangrape.
Over 100 PFI members were arrested or detained following the raids on September 22. Thereafter, this number went up to 247 following another set of raids on September 27. — Agencies