The Union home ministry had on Wednesday morning banned the PFI and its associate organisations for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Hours after the Union government banned the Popular Front of India and its associate outfits, the PFI on Wednesday announced the disbanding of the organisation.
In a statement, PFI state general secretary A Abdul Sattar said the organisation was disbanded after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a notification banning it. “As law-abiding citizens of the country, we accept the decision of the Home Ministry,” he added.
“The PFI has been working with a clear vision for the socio-economic and cultural empowerment of the underprivileged, downtrodden and marginalised sections of the society for the past three decades. But as law-abiding citizens of our great country, the organisation accepts the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It also informs all its former members and the general public that the Popular Front of India has been disbanded. All members of the Popular Front of India are requested to cease their activities since the publication of the notification,’’ he said.
MHA had on Wednesday morning banned the PFI and its associate organisations, including the Rehab India Foundation (RIF) and the Campus Front of India, for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The ban came a day after the second nationwide crackdown on the radical outfit in five days with police teams across seven states conducting raids on Tuesday and detaining or arresting more than 270 people with alleged links to the radical outfit.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has expressed fears that every Muslim youth will now be arrested with a PFI pamphlet under India’s draconian black law, UAPA.
Asaduddin Owaisi has opposed the Centre’s PFI ban. He said that the ban is not acceptable though he opposes the illegal activities of PFI. He suspected that every Muslim youth will be arrested now under the draconian UAPA Act
“But a draconian ban of this kind is dangerous as it is a ban on any Muslim who wishes to speak his mind. The way India’s electoral autarky is approaching fascism, every Muslim youth will now be arrested with a PFI pamphlet under India’s black law, UAPA,” he tweeted.
Besides PFI, the organisations which were also declared banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) include Rehab India Foundation, Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.
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 had led to the arrest of over a hundred of its activities and seizure of several dozen properties.
In a late Tuesday night notification, the Union Home Ministry said some PFI founding members are leaders of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the PFI has linkages with Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Both JMB and SIMI are proscribed organisations.
It said there had been many instances of international linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been working covertly to increase the radicalisation of one community by promoting a sense of insecurity in the country, which is substantiated by the fact that some PFI cadres have joined international terrorist organisations, the notification claimed.
The Home Ministry said Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat governments had also recommended a ban on PFI.
Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Assam welcomed the decision, saying PFI was posing threat to the country’s unity and integrity.
The opposition Congress in Kerala and its coalition partner Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) also welcomed the Centre’s move, but said the RSS should also be similarly outlawed. Strongly condemning the activities of the PFI, senior IUML leader MK Muneer said the radical outfit had misinterpreted the Quran and persuaded the community members to adopt the path of violence. PFI not only tried to mislead the young generation but also tried to create division and hatred in the society, he said.
The home ministry claimed that PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been involved in violent terrorist activities with an intent to create a reign of terror in the country, thereby endangering the security and public order of the state.
PFI, the notification alleged, is encouraging and trying to enforce a terror-based regressive regime, continue to propagate anti-national sentiments and radicalising a particular section of society to create disaffection against the country, aggravating activities which are detrimental to the integrity, security and sovereignty of the country.
The home ministry claimed investigations have established clear linkages between PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts. It said Rehab India Foundation collects funds through PFI members. Some PFI members are also members of Campus Front of India, Empower India Foundation, and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.
The activities of Junior Front, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation and National Women’s Front are monitored/coordinated by the PFI leaders, the notification claimed. PFI created these associates or affiliates or fronts to enhance its reach among different sections of the society such as the youth, students, women, imams, lawyers or weaker sections of the society to expand its membership, influence and fund-raising capacity, it said.
The Centre, through another notification, empowered the state governments to take action against these groups affiliated with the PFI and the possible action against them could be seizure of places and arrest of their members. The home ministry said these associates or affiliates or fronts have a ‘hub and spoke’ relationship.
PFI acts as the hub and utilises the mass outreach and fund-raising capacity of its associates or affiliates or fronts to strengthen its capability for unlawful activities and these associates or affiliates or fronts function as “roots and capillaries through which the PFI is fed and strengthened”, it claimed.
The PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic educational and political organisations. But they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society, working towards undermining the concept of democracy and showing sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional setup of the country, it alleged.
Investigations in various cases have revealed that PFI and its cadre have been repeatedly engaging in violent and subversive acts, the ministry claimed. Criminal violent acts carried out by PFI include chopping off the limbs of a college professor, killings of persons associated with organisations espousing other faiths, obtaining explosives to target prominent people and places and destruction of public property, it said.
The notification also mentioned the names of several people who were alleged victims of the PFI’s “brutal” violence and most of them belong to Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The home ministry said there had been many instances of PFI’s linkages with global terrorist groups and some activists of its PFI have joined ISIS and participated in terror activities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of this PFI cadre were killed in these conflict theatres and some have been arrested by state police and central agencies, the Centre claimed.
The PFI’s political offshoot Social Democratic Party of India has strongly condemned the ban saying this was part of the “undeclared emergency” clamped by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government in the country.
Many mainstream politicians and political parties, however, saw the ban as a correct decision. Many in the opposition called for a similar ban on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.
Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad called the RSS a “Hindu extremist organisation” that deserved to be banned upon being asked by journalists to react to PFI’s ban.
“They keep raising the bogey of PFI. It is the RSS, which is all about Hindu extremism, which deserves to be banned first,” said Lalu.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said political isolation, not banning organisations like the PFI, was the solution
Hitting back at BJP chief J.P. Nadda for alleging that Kerala, ruled by his party-led LDF being a “hotspot of terrorism”, Yechury asked the former to tell the RSS to stop “retaliatory killings” and allow the state administration to take action against extremist organisations.
“The BJP president says Kerala is a hotspot of terrorism. If he wants to stop this kind of terrorism, he must tell the RSS to stop its retaliatory killings. Let the state administration take action. State administration will take firm action against extremist organisations, be it Popular Front of India (PFI) or anybody else.”
“The politics of sharpening communal polarisation, of spreading hatred and terror and bulldozer politics was not the answer to strengthening secular democratic foundations of India. It only serves to create an atmosphere for growth of extremist organisations and their activities,” he said.
The party too echoed these sentiments in its official statement on the ban.
The solution he offered was not a ban, but “politically isolating” such organisations and administratively taking very firm action against their criminal or illegal activities.
“A ban is not a solution to tackle this problem. We have seen what our own experience and India’s experience has been. RSS was banned thrice after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. Has anything stopped? The polarisation campaigns of hate and terror, anti-minoritism, genocide of minorities, all these continue,” he alleged.
“We have also seen a ban on CPI (Maoist). Even today the security forces are at loggerheads with them and the two continue to battle each other in certain parts of the country. We have to politically isolate such forces which spread extremism and terror tactics and administratively take firm action against their criminal activities. That is the manner in which this has to be tackled,” he said.
Yechury said the Kerala CPI(M) leaders were not against ban on PFI, they were only saying that if PFI was being banned, so should RSS.
“Same logic should apply to everybody,” he said.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), in the opposition in Kerala along with Congress, welcomed the ban but said that the RSS should also be similarly outlawed.
Strongly condemning the activities of the PFI, senior IUML leader M.K. Muneer said the radical outfit had misinterpreted the Quran and persuaded the community members to adopt the path of violence.
The PFI not only tried to mislead the young generation but also tried to create division and hatred in the society, he said in Kozhikode.
“All Islamic scholars in the state have strongly condemned the extremist ideologies. But, outfits like PFI have made even tiny children raise contemptuous slogans. Which Islam has persuaded them to do so?” the legislator asked.
Stating that IUML has always opposed the deeds of both RSS and PFI-SDPI, Muneer said the respective communities should reject the communal ideologies of such outfits.
The Congress in New Delhi said it is against all ideologies and institutions that abuse religion to polarise the society and misuse it to spread hate, bigotry and violence.
All India Congress Committee general secretary communications Jairam Ramesh said, “The Congress has always been and will continue to be against all forms and types of communalism majority or minority makes no difference.”
“The Congress’ policy has always been to uncompromisingly fight all ideologies and institutions that abuse religion to polarise our society, that misuse religion to spread prejudice, hate, bigotry and violence,” he added in a statement.
Ramesh said this fight is of utmost priority to preserve, protect and celebrate the secular and composite construct of the society and nationhood.
Senior Congress leader and former Kerala home minister Ramesh Chennithala said the Union government’s decision was a “good thing”.
“RSS should also be banned like this. In Kerala, both majority communalism and minority communalism should be equally opposed. Both the outfits have flared up communal hatred and thus tried to create division in the society,” he said.
Chennithala said Congress is a party which has taken a strong stand against communalism spread by both the majority and minority communities.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath said in “new India”, those posing a threat to the country’s national unity and integrity are not acceptable.
In a tweet in Hindi, the chief minister said, “The ban imposed on Popular Front of India (PFI) and its affiliated organisations indulging in anti-national activities is commendable and welcome.”
“This is new India where terrorists, criminals and individuals who pose threat to the unity and integrity of the nation and the security are not acceptable,” he said.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis claimed there was enough evidence to prove that the PFI was sowing seeds of violence in society.
“Spreading rumours, raising funds and triggering violence was their aim,” Fadnavis said.
“A fake video of a mosque being demolished in a north eastern state was circulated with an intention to trigger violence. We have seen such an incident in Amravati in the past. It later came to light that the video was from Bangladesh,” he said.
Fadnavis said Kerala was the first state to demand a ban on the PFI. Similar demands were later made by other states in the country also, he added.
Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai said the PFI is an avatar of the SIMI and credited Prime Minister Modi and Union home minister Shah with having taken the ‘right’ decision.
“For a long time, it has been a demand by the people of this country, by all political parties including the opposition CPI, CPI(M) and the Congress. PFI is the avatar (incarnation) of SIMI (banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India), and KFD (Karnataka Forum for Dignity). They were involved in anti-national activities and violence,” Bommai said.
Widespread raids were conducted on PFI leaders and their residences in Karnataka in the last week, leading to the arrest of many of them.
Speaking to reporters, he said they had their command outside the country and some of their important office-bearers had even gone across the border for the training.
“With a lot of background work, information, and cases, the Government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah has taken the right decision. This is the message for all anti-national groups that they will not survive in this country. I also urge people not to associate with such organisations,” he added.
To a question on whether PFI was strong in coastal Karnataka and if it was a tall task before the state government to remove them, Bommai said, “Whatever necessary, will be done.”
Courtesy Indian Express/The Wire