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PFI Has Been Declared An ‘Unlawful Organization’ By The Indian Government

On September 28, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of India declared the Popular Front of India (PFI) as an unlawful association. Along with the PFI, eight organizations affiliated with it were also banned by the Government of India. PFI’s offices were raided by National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) in many states of India on September 22, and five men were arrested by the NIA, including PFI’s Vice Chairman and General Secretary. In a major crackdown on September 27, over 270 people were detained for their alleged links with the PFI. Following these crackdowns on the PFI, the MHA has issued a notification of imposing a ban on the PFI and its affiliates for five years under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

What are the reasons given by the Government of India?

In the notification issued by the government, various reasons have been mentioned to declare PFI and its associates as an ‘Unlawful Association’. The Government Press release reads, “The Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associates or affiliates or fronts are involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional setup of the country, disturbing public order, etc. which are prejudicial to the integrity, security and sovereignty of the country.” In the notification, the government mentioned, “There is evidence that the group has a connection with the international terrorist group ISIS.”

The associates of the PFI which are declared Unlawful along with the PFI are Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CFI), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation, and Rehab Foundation.

What is the reaction of PFI’s political wing?

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) is the political wing of PFI. It is the only PFI affiliate that the government has not banned. Following the ban of PFI, in a Press release, SDPI termed the decision of the government to ban PFI as a direct blow to democracy and the rights of people enshrined in the Indian constitution. MK Faizy, National President of SDPI, said, “The regime is misusing the investigation agencies and laws to silence the opposition and to scare the people from expressing the voice of dissent.

All about PFI

PFI was formed in November 2006 by merging three Muslim organizations - National Development Front (NDF) of Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) of Karnataka, and Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) of Tamil Nadu. The right-wing Muslim organizations of three South Indian states were merged to counter the influence of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is a right-wing Hindu organization.

After the demolition of Babri Masjid, NDF was formed by the leaders P Koya and E Aboobacker, who were related to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Initially, NDF showcased itself as a human rights organization, fighting for the rights of Muslims and backward Hindus. But many communal crimes were committed by the people related to NDF, which suggested the opposite of what it tried to project. The investigation of the Marad Massacre was done by the Thomas P Joseph commission. According to the commission, NDF was a terrorist organization that was funded by foreign elements.

After the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), three Muslim organizations were merged to form PFI. The newly formed organization has grown its presence in many states of India. It has units in more than 20 states. Earlier, PFI's headquarter was situated in Kozhikode (Kerala), which is now shifted to New Delhi. Just like NDF, PDI also projected itself as a human rights organization. It received funds from outside the country by using which it started doing charitable activities. PFI managed to attract the youth through such activities, and the young volunteers took part in the relief operations during floods in Kerala and COVID pandemic. In 2009, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) was launched, backed by PFI. SDPI has been gaining support on the ground slowly since its formation.

Apart from its charitable activities, many activists of PFI were involved in communal and political clashes. In 2010, PFI activists chopped off Professor TJ Joseph’s hand, alleging that he had committed blasphemy in a question paper that he had set. In 2015, the NIA court found 13 people guilty of chopping off Professor TN Joseph’s hand. All the 13 convicted were associated with PFI. Reacting to the news of the ban on PFI, the professor said, “An extremist body like PFI should not have existed in a progressive and literate state like Kerala.”

In 2012, the Kerala government informed the High Court that PFI was the resurrection of SIMI. According to the Kerala government’s affidavit, PFI activists were involved in 27 murder cases, the motives behind which were communal. In 2013, Karnataka Police arrested 21 suspected activists of PFI who were allegedly caught in an arms training camp in Kerala’s Narath. In addition to that, government officials, from time to time, have also alleged that some PFI supporters have been joining hands with ISIS.

What are the reactions of different political parties to the PFI ban?

Many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders from different states of India have welcomed the move of the Central government to ban PFI. BJP leader and CM of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “We got footprints of the PFI and the CFI (Campus Front of India) in the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) agitation. The members of two organizations tried to create an unpleasant situation in the state.” On the other hand, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has condemned the ban imposed on PFI and its affiliates by the Union government. In a press release, CPI (Maoist) called (the ban) a draconian and anti-democratic decision and called it an integral part of the Hindutava agenda. CPI (M) said, “Through imposing a ban, the Brahmanic Hindutava BJP once again criminalized the Muslim community.”

What lies ahead of the ban?

Though politically, PFI was not influential enough to make a major impact on the polls, it has created the vote bank over time. Now, after the ban on PFI, it is believed by some political observers that SDPI might become a more prominent party soon.

Edited By Sara Irfan

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