NIA raids on PFI in 15 states, several arrested
Sept. 23, 2022

In News:

  • In a nationwide crackdown, 109 leaders and activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested.
  • These arrests were made by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the police during searches conducted across 15 States.

What’s in Today’s Article:

  • Popular Front of India
  • News Summary

Popular Front of India (PFI)

  • The PFI was founded in 2007, a year after the merger of three Muslim groups -
    • National Democratic Front in Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu.
      • A decision to bring the three outfits together was taken in November 2006 at a meeting in Kozhikode in Kerala.
  • The organisation emerged in the aftermath of the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
  • PFI is most active in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. However, now it has presence in around two dozen states and a well-established organisational structure in a dozen states.

Aim

  • PFI calls itself a socio-political movement that strives for the empowerment of the Muslims and other marginalised sections of society
  • It describes itself as a cadre-based movement, which is developed through routine training and education regarding management, leadership and mass mobilisation.
  • The PFI has itself never contested elections. It has been involved in carrying out social and Islamic religious work among Muslims.
  • The Social Democratic Party of India, (SDPI), formed in 2009, is PFI’s political front.

Why this group has been on the radar of investigating agencies?

  • Cadres involved in violence
    • In 2010, some members of the PFI attacked T.J. Joseph, a professor in Ernakulam district of Kerala, chopping off his right palm.
    • He was targeted over a question paper he set for a college examination that had some references to the Prophet, which the attackers said were insulting.
    • Back in 2012, the then Kerala government had informed the High Court that PFI was nothing but a resurrection of the banned outfit SIMI in another form.
  • Followed a multi-pronged operational strategy to communalise the society
    • As per the dossier(document) on PFI prepared by the NIA, PFI followed a multi-pronged operational strategy that aims to:
      • communalise the nation’s polity,
      • encourage and enforce Taliban brand of Islam,
      • Heighten existing social divisions.
    • The dossier was prepared in 2017 to push the home ministry for a ban on the outfit.
    • But it could not be declared an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 as officials were divided on the subject.
  • Responsible for imposing religious orthodoxy
    • Investigation agencies allege that PFI is responsible for imposing religious orthodoxy and puritanism (censorious moral beliefs) amongst Muslims.
    • It is also involved in propagating Dawah or Islamism through its dedicated cadre and institutions like Sathyasarini or Markazul Hidaya Educational and Charitable Trust in Manjeri, Malappuram district of Kerala.
  • Involvement in money laundering
    • In June 2022, the ED accused the organisation of money laundering, claiming that it had received over ₹60 crore since 2009, including cash deposit of over ₹30 crore.

News Summary

  • The National Investigation Agency launched a massive nationwide search operation in connection with anti-terror activities.
  • The clampdown was based on inputs that the accused were funding terror acts, organising weapon training camps and radicalising people to join banned outfits.