New Delhi: The All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (AIPMM) welcomed the action taken by the central investigative agencies against the Popular Front of India (PFI) on Thursday and said that the outfit was “misleading Muslims posing as champion of Islam”.
“PFI is trying to mislead the country by acting as the saviour of Islam. We have protested against their policies time and again, and requested for their ban,” read a statement from AIPMM.
In a massive crackdown on PFI, multi-agency teams spearheaded by the NIA arrested 106 leaders and activists of the radical Islamic outfit on Thursday in near simultaneous raids in 15 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country, officials said.
Kerala, where the PFI has some strong pockets, accounted for the maximum number of 22 arrests with its chairman O M A Salam among those picked up, officials said, adding the countrywide arrests were a result of a “largest ever” investigation process against the outfit “till date”.
The raids by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the police forces of the states concerned were spread across 93 locations in 15 states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar and Manipur, officials said.
Maharashtra and Karnataka accounted for 20 arrests each, Tamil Nadu (10), Assam (9), Uttar Pradesh (8), Andhra Pradesh (5), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry and Delhi (3 each) and Rajasthan (2), they said.
The raids began at 3:30 am and involved a total of 300 NIA officials from its various offices across the country, they added.
The raids sparked an angry response from the PFI which called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kerala on Friday and termed the arrest of its leaders as a part of “state-sponsored terrorism”.
‘Incriminating documents and sharp edged weapons’ recovered
PFI, formed in 2006, claims to strive for a neo-social movement ostensibly for the empowerment of marginalised sections of India, and is often accused by law enforcement agencies of promoting radical Islam.
During the searches, officials said incriminating documents and sharp edged weapons were found and a large number of digital devices also seized. The offices of the top brass of the PFI and members were searched in connection with five cases registered by the NIA following continued inputs and evidence against the leaders and cadres for their alleged involvement in funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organising training camps for providing armed training and radicalising people to join banned organisations, officials said.
The 106 arrests were made separately by agencies involved in the operation, with the NIA alone accounting for 45 of them as part of probe in five cases. As on date, the NIA is investigating a total of 19 cases involving the PFI.
As many as 19 accused were arrested by the NIA from Kerala, 11 from Tamil Nadu, 7 from Karnataka, 4 from AP, 2 from Rajasthan, and 1 each from UP and Telangana, the agency said in a statement.
Officials said criminal and violent acts allegedly carried out by the PFI over a period of time — such as the chopping off the hand of a college professor in Kerala in 2010, cold-blooded killings of people linked with organisations espousing 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.
(With inputs from agencies)