Forces joined hands across 16 regions to clamp down on PFI
By evening, 108 people had been arrested and produced in courts around the country, capping a day that saw the “largest ever” investigation process “till date”, officials said
New Delhi: Coordinated action against the Popular Front of India (PFI) by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the police forces of 15 states and one Union Territory was the result of “continued inputs” and evidence that leaders and cadres of the controversial outfit were funding terrorism, the federal anti-terror agency said on Thursday.
The raids began simultaneously across the country around 3am and continued till 2pm, with investigators saying that they found incriminating documents, cash, sharp-edged weapons, and a large number of digital devices that link the outfit to terror funding, holding camps for arms training and radicalising people to joined banned groups.
By evening, 108 people had been arrested and produced in courts around the country, capping a day that saw the “largest ever” investigation process “till date”, officials said.
“Searches were conducted at the houses and offices of top PFI leaders and members in connection with five cases following continued inputs and evidence that PFI leaders and cadres were involved in funding of terrorism and terrorist activities,” NIA said in a statement.
NIA, which raided 02 locations with 300 officers, arrested 45 PFI leaders and cadre, including some top members. This included chairman OMA Salam from his residence in Kerala’s Malappuram, vice-chairman P Koya, general secretary VP Nazarudheen Elamaram, national president E Abubacker, Kerala state unit chief Mohammad Basheer, Karnataka unit general secretary Anis Ahmed, secretary Afsar Pasha, Tamil Nadu unit general secretary Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Uttar Pradesh unit chief Waseem Ahmed,and Telangana state unit chief of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) Abdul Waris.
NIA said 19 people were arrested in Kerala, 11 in Tamil Nadu, seven in Karnataka, four in Andhra Pradesh, two in Rajasthan, and one each in Uttar Pradesh and Telangana. Those arrested by NIA were brought to Delhi, produced before a court and subsequently sent to NIA custody till September 26. The Enforcement Directorate, which carried out the raid in Capital, arrested the outfit’s Delhi unit chief Parvez Ahmad.
NIA is currently investigating a total of 19 PFI-related cases, including five fresh ones -- filed in Delhi, Hyderabad and Kochi -- which led to the raids were conducted on Thursday. In 14 cases probed earlier, charge sheets were filed against 355 people and 46 were convicted.
“Criminal violent acts carried out by PFI such as chopping off the hand of a college professor, cold-blooded killings of persons associated with organisations espousing the other faiths, collection of explosives to target prominent people and places, support to Islamic State and destruction of public property have had a demonstrative effect of striking terror in the minds of the citizens,” NIA said in its statement.
Many of the references are to past cases where PFI’s members have been charged. In addition, the role of the organisation is also suspected in orchestrating the protests in Karnataka over the right to wear a hijab in schools, and in the murder of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) youth wing leader Praveen Nettaru in Bellare, Karnakata.
A large number of criminal cases have been registered by different states over the last few years against PFI for the alleged involvement of its members in several violent acts, the anti-terror probe agency said in its statement.
While ED did not provide details pertaining to its operation, an officer from the anti-money laundering agency, who did not wish to be named, said at least 200 officers were involved in the raids.
Both NIA and ED sought the assistance of central paramilitary forces and local police to avoid any immediate protests by PFI leaders, an NIA officer said. “The raids were planned at dawn deliberately considering PFI can gather hundreds of protestors or members within minutes, which could have posed a problem for the raiding party,” the officer said, seeking anonymity.
A senior NIA officer, who did not want to be named, said a detailed proposal will be sent by the probe agency and ED to ban PFI under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to the Union home ministry. PFI’s National Executive Council (NEC) in a statement condemned the raids and accused the central agencies of “harassing” its leaders.
“NIA’s baseless claims and sensationalism are solely aimed at creating an atmosphere of terror. PFI... will stand firm on its will for recovering the democratic system and spirit of the constitution of our beloved country,” the statement said.