The Central government, on Wednesday, announced a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI) following raids on the leaders and offices of the organisation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in states across the country on September 22.
The action was followed by a second round of nationwide raids on the outfit on September 27 during which authorities in seven states arrested over 270 people citing links with the PFI.
The government authorities alleged that members of the PFI are involved in organising terrorist camps and encouraging Muslim youth to join terror activities, due to which a five-year ban was imposed on the organisation under the draconian terror law .
The PFI, which was formed in 2006, describes itself “as a non-government social organisation whose stated objective is to work for the poor and disadvantaged people in the country and to oppose oppression and exploitation”.
However, the organization came into being after the establishment of National Development Front (NDF) in Kerala a few years after the Babri mosque was demolished in 1992 which got merged with two other organisations from the south. Over the years, it managed to gain a broader base as more organisations across the nation merged with it.
Currently, the PFI has a stronghold in Kerala and Karnataka, is active in more than 20 Indian states and claims that its cadre strength is in the “hundreds of thousands”.
The party claims to establish an “egalitarian society where everyone enjoys freedom, justice and a sense of security”. It mentions that changes in economic policies are essential to ensure that Dalits (formerly untouchables), tribal people and minorities get their rights.
The government has filed a number of charges against the group and its members which include “sedition, creating enmity between different sections of society and taking steps to destabilise India”.
The PFI came into the limelight after several Muslim groups accused a college professor in 2006 of asking derogatory questions about Prophet Muhammad in an examination. However, recently, members from the group were also linked to the beheading of a Hindu man in the western state of Rajasthan in June.
The last blow from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) came in the form of a notification declaring a five-year ban on the PFI under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 on the PFI and its associate organisations, including the Rehab India Foundation (RIF) and Campus Front of India.
According to the notification, there are a number of reasons leading to the ban, including that “the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organization, but they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country”.
It was also mentioned that “the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country and have the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony of the country and supporting militancy in the country”.
Therefore, the notification by the home ministry said that the Central government had decided to declare the PFI and its various fronts as an “unlawful association” with “immediate effect”.