What the ban on Popular Front of India means?

Updated on Sep 28, 2022 09:27 AM IST

The ban is expected to cripple its funding, recruitment, and other activities as any person found associated with it can be booked under terror charges in any part of the country

A sealed Popular Front of India office in Hyderabad. (PTI)
A sealed Popular Front of India office in Hyderabad. (PTI)
ByNeeraj Chauhan

The ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI) under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act’s Section 3, which makes it “terrorist organisation”, is expected to cripple its funding, recruitment, and other activities as anyone found associated with it can be booked under terror charges in any part of the country, people familiar with the matter said.

Also Read:Centre bans PFI after week-long crackdown across the country

PFI and its remaining office bearers would not be able to organise protests, seminars, conferences, donation exercises, or come up with publications, and any such activity after the arrests of its top leadership in a crackdown since September 22. Central agencies and the local police can immediately declare the activities illegal.

The cadre-based organisation is further going to face action in the coming days. The bank accounts, properties, and offices of the PFI and associated organisations could be seized or attached and there will be travel restrictions on its office-bearers.

In a notification, the government said on Tuesday that a majority of PFI’s top leadership was earlier part of the banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). It added PFI also has linkages with banned terror outfit Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

JMB was banned in 2019. It has a presence in West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, and other regions but has been “quietly” carrying out subversive activities like collection of funds, recruitment of vulnerable Muslim youths. It was allegedly imparting training to them and motivating them to make handmade weapons like bows and arrows, etc, radicalising them to fight against members of other communities within India, according to a National Investigation Agency (NIA) document seen by HT.

Over 50 JMB members were arrested in West Bengal and Assam, and over 100 bombs were recovered in a crackdown on the organisation in 2014.

The NIA document said SIMI formed the Indian Mujahideen terror outfit with the support of Pakistan in 2006-07 and carried out a series of blasts. It added that JMB too has Pakistan links as it receives support from Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“It [JMB] also uses madrasas, mosques and social media for recruiting Muslim youth, according to inputs shared by intelligence agencies,” the NIA document said.

The notification on PFI’s ban alleged its cadres have links with global terror outfits such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, which officials say have been thoroughly investigated in the last five to six years.

“There is ample documentary and digital evidence on the terror activities of PFI,’ said an official, who did not want to be named.

The NIA prepared a dossier on PFI in 2017 and HT has seen a copy of it. The dossier said the PFI has over 50,000 regular members and 100,000 to 150,000 sympathisers in Kerala, with an increase of 3% to 5% per annum. It added these cadres are encouraged to act as guardians of Islamic values, effectively transforming them into moral police.

An NIA officer, who did not want to be named, said with PFI having a presence in close to 22 states and Union territories, the number of members and cadres could be much higher.

The notification said PFI cadres have also been involved in several terrorist acts and murders including that of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Praveen Nettaru in Karnataka this year.

“The...criminal activities and brutal murders have been carried out by PFI cadres for the sole objective of disturbing public peace and tranquillity and creating [a] reign of terror in [the] public mind,” the notification said.

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