Ravi Shankar Prasad suspects PFI hand in UP violence
As many as 21 persons have died in violent protests over CAA in Uttar Pradesh; 1,113 persons have been arrested in connection with the protests.Updated: Jan 01, 2020 23:36 IST
On the day the Uttar Pradesh government asked the central government to ban Islamist organisation Popular Front of India (PFI), Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said PFI may have played a part in violence surrounding some protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and that the Union home ministry will decide on the action to be taken against the organisation “based on evidence”.
Speaking to reporters in Delhi, Prasad, said: “There are many allegations against them (PFI), including connection with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).” The minister added that the home ministry will also take a call on the UP government’s request seeking a ban on the organisation.
The state government, in its letter to the home ministry, cited ongoing investigations of the organisation’s involvement in the violent protests against the CAA on December 19. As many as 21 persons have died in violent protests over CAA in Uttar Pradesh; 1,113 persons have been arrested in connection with the protests.
Uttar Pradesh’s Director General of Police, OP Singh said 21 PFI members have been arrested for inciting violence. This includes the organisation’s UP president Waseem Ahmad.
“We have found some incriminating documents which suggest involvement of certain active members of PFI in the recent agitation that turned violent. We will present the evidence before the home ministry,” he added.
A police officer in the state, who asked not be named, said the police have identified 16 chat groups through which PFI members called for violent protest in the state.
The home ministry has received the state government’s request and is likely to take legal opinion and also consult other departments before imposing a ban on the organisation.
The ministry is also likely to seek inputs from the Intelligence Bureau and other central government agencies, including the National Investigation Agency (NIA), government officials said.
PFI members refute the claims of the police. “The police are acting against PFI on the direction of the state government. Uttar Pradesh police is trying to hide its failure in preventing violence by putting the blame on PFI,” said PFI’s Northern Region in-charge Anis Ansari.
PFI isn’t new to controversy. The National Investigation Agency has even termed it a threat to national security. Then minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said in January 2018 that the ministry of home affairs was considering banning the outfit.
NIA has named PFI in at least four cases – for chopping of f the hand of a professor in Kerala’s Idukki district (July 2010), the murder of RSS leader in Bengaluru (October 2016), serving as the Islamic State Omar Al-Hindi module in Kochi (October 2016), and organising a training camp in Kannur from where bombs, IEDs and swords were recovered (April 2013).
In the first case, 13 PFI members were awarded life sentence. In the Kannur case, six of its members were awarded rigorous imprisonment.
PFI’s national secretary Anees Ahmed said: “Everyone knows what’s happening in Uttar Pradesh, how UP police crossed all lines to indulge in violence against the protestors. Now, to hide their failures and to silence the voice of people, they are coming up with this diversion of seeking a ban on PFI. We (PFI) are not even fully operational in UP. We just have an ad-hoc committee there”.
Primarily based in Kerala, PFI is a successor of National Democratic Front (NDF) started in Kozhikode in 1989. The formation of PFI was first announced on November 9, 2006 at Bengaluru. The organisation has a strong base in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
According to Kerala police officers, the Popular Front of India (PFI) was launched in Kerala in 2006 after merging three fringe Muslim outfits floated after the Babri Masjid’s demolition in 1992 -- the National Development Front of Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and Manitha Neethi Pasari of Tamil Nadu.
In Kerala, most of its original leaders were members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). PFI describes itself as a neo-social movement committed to empower people belonging to the minority communities, Dalits and other weaker sections of the society. In Kerala a retired professor, P Koya, is considered the ideologue of the organisation.
Kerala police claim PFI is involved in at least 27 political murders in the state. In 2014, the Kerala government submitted an affidavit in the High Court to the effect, also adding that the organisation was also involved in 86 attempt to murder cases and more than 125 cases of whipping up communal passions.
“PFI’s belligerent and militant position on many issues has attracted a lot of young people to it. To weaken the Muslim League, considered to be a secular party (in Kerala), some of the mainline political parties supported it. Now it has grown into a formidable force,” said a political analyst who studies north Kerala and who did not want to be identified.
In Kerala, PFI has a women’s wing, National Women’s Front, a student wing, Campus Front of India, and a political party, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). In the 2016 assembly election in the state, SDPI contested in many seats but managed less than 1% vote share.
PFI claims it has units in 22 states including Manipur, Assam, UP, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
According to the NIA dossier, prepared in 2017, PFI has at least 50,000 regular members and 1 to 1.5 lakh sympathizers in Kerala.
On the organisation’s funding, the NIA said, PFI receives funds through various non-government organisations working in West Asia and also receives money from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah. PFI also collects between ~10 and ~1,000 for membership fee, Ramadan collections, etc. It also solicits Muslim businessmen to contribute generously toward supporting its publishing efforts.