‘Vendetta politics,’ alleges PFI after countrywide raids on leaders, offices
In a countrywide raid, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday searched offices and residences of Popular Front of India (PFI) leaders in connection with money-laundering complaints.
After Delhi riots and communal disturbances in Bengaluru, the role of the radical outfit was under the scanner of central agencies. The PFI condemned the raids, alleging it was part of vendetta politics.
In Kerala, houses of three prominent leaders including national chairman OMA Salam were raided. “It is a politically-motivated move. It is aimed at distracting attention from the farmers’ strike,” said OMA Salam, who is employed with the Kerala state electricity board in Malappuram.
Besides OMA Salam, national secretary Naseeruddin Elamaraom and state leader Karamana Ashraf Moulavi’s houses were among the raided entities. In Thiruvananthapuram and Malappuram, angry PFI workers tried to block the raids, later local police had to intervene.
A senior ED official said 26 locations were raided in Delhi and eight other states and it seized many documents. But PFI leaders in Kerala said the ED failed to seize any documents. Searches were also conducted in neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
“It is part of a witch-hunt going on against activists and groups who are at the forefront of citizenship agitations. The organisation will face such tactics legally and democratically,” a statement issued by the PFI headquarters in Delhi said.
A controversial outfit, the PFI is often considered to be an offshoot of the banned Students’ Islamic Front of India (SIMI). It all started when fiery Kerala cleric Abdul Nasser Madani, an accused in Bangalore and Coimbatore blast cases, founded Islamic Seva Sangh on the lines of the RSS after the Babri mosque demolition in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.
Later, when Madani was in jail in connection with the Coimbatore blasts, the leaders of the Islamic Seva Sangh formed the National Development Front. In 2006, the NDF merged with Manitha Neethi Pasarai of Tamil Nadu and Forum for Dignity, a Karnataka-based outfit, to form the Popular Front of India (PFI).
In Kerala, most of the front’s erstwhile leaders are members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The PFI describes itself as a neo-social movement committed to empowering people belonging to the minority communities, Dalits and other weaker sections of the society. In Kerala, a retired professor P Koya is considered as the tallest leader and mentor of the organisation.
Now, the PFI claims to have units across 22 states. Officials in the intelligence agencies say it successfully exploited a growing vacuum in the minority community by portraying itself as a ‘saviour’.
Since its inception, the outfit has been mired in many clashes and political murders. It was allegedly involved in at least 30 political murders in Kerala. In 2015, 13 of its workers were awarded life-term in prison for chopping the palm of a college professor, TJ Joseph, who prepared a question paper, alleged to be blasphemous.
In 2017, six PFI activists were held in connection with the murder of an ABVP leader in Kannur and nine were arrested for allegedly killing SFI leader Abhimanyu in Maharaja College in Ernakulam in 2018. The front is currently being probed for alleged funding of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests.