Recruitment, arms training, terror funding: How the PFI carries out ‘anti-national’ activities

Police try to detain PFI activists during a protest in Hubballi, Karnataka. Protests broke out in Kerala and Karantaka after the massive crackdown on PFI on Thursday. PTI

After nationwide raids and the arrest of over 100 people linked to the Popular Front of India (PFI), a Muslim radical group, Kerala is on edge. The organisation has called for a bandh, which has turned violent, to protest against the crackdown. Police officers were attacked and cars and buses have been damaged on Friday.

Why is the NIA getting after the Islamic group? And why is the PFI angry? We take a look.

The big raids

The raids by National Investigation Agency (NIA) on properties across the country linked to the PFI are related to five Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA) cases registered against the group.

In its “largest raid ever”, the NIA roped in the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and local police. The overnight operation was carried out across 11 states with the help of more than 1,500 state police officers and Central Armed Police Forces.

Also read: Is the PFI a gateway to Islamic State and other terror outfits?

A case was reportedly registered in April in an investigation following information gathered by the Centre that office bearers and members of the PFI were collecting funds from India and abroad to commit “terrorist acts”.

PFI’s ‘acts of terror’

The NIA has claimed that the PFI was involved in recruiting Muslim youth to terrorist organisations like the Islamic State. The PFI has also been accused of providing training to its members to carry out acts of terror.

“The arrests are a part of the crackdown on the organisation that has been involved in anti-national, seditious activities. They had been growing their base, recruiting more people, imparting training, even in arms,” an NIA source told The Print.

According to the report, “incriminating documents from the offices of PFI in different states”.

Also read: Explained: How PFI first gained notoriety after chopping off Kerala professor TJ Joseph’s hand

The ED was part of Thursday’s big operation. In June this year, the ED attached Rs 68.62 lakh under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2022 and filed prosecution complaints against the organisation. It claimed that the “PFI was covertly mobilising funds through well-organised networks in Gulf countries”.

The enforcement authorities are now probing charges of terror funding against the outfit.

According to the ED, funds that were being sent to India through illegal channels were used to carry out unlawful activities. The money was sent through “foreign remittances into the bank accounts of sympathisers/office bearers/members and their relatives associates in India, and thereafter these funds were transferred to the bank accounts of PFI, RIF (Rehab India Foundation) and other individuals/entities”, the agency alleged, reports The Indian Express.

Police take action against PFI activists after nationwide raids. The radical Islamic outfit has been accused of terror-related activities. PTI

A large number of criminal cases have been registered by different states over the last few years against the PFI and its leaders and members for their involvement in many violent acts, the NIA said after the raids on Thursday.

“Criminal acts carried out by PFI such as chopping off the hand of a college professor, cold-blooded killings of persons associated 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,” the agency said.

The PFI’s stand

The PFI has condemned the raids and arrests, calling them “harassment”.

A statement issued by the organisation said that it will “never ever surrender on any (sic) scary action by a totalitarian regime using the central agencies as its puppets and will stand firm on its will for recovering the democratic system and spirit of the constitution of our beloved country”.

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political wing of the PFI, called the raids an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to intimidate its opponents. “The nationwide raids on the residences of leaders are an affirmative sign of the efforts to stifle dissenting voices,” said SDPI national president M K Faizy said in a statement on Thursday.

Raids were carried out in 11 states on Thursday and more than 100 PFI activists were arrested. PTI

PFI’s ‘criminal’ record

In 2017, the Kerala police registered a case after two men linked to the PFI were arrested in Turkey and subsequently deported to India for trying to sneak into Syria to join IS. The convicted persons were part of the Kannur module of the IS, according to the police.

According to intelligence agencies, some 40 to 50 PFI activists from the Kannur district, mainly from the Valapattanam region, joined the IS in Syria. In June, three men were handed a prison sentence for recruiting Muslim youths to the terror organisation.

Also read: Islamic State recruitment, 2020 Delhi riots, and more: The long ‘crime record’ of the PFI

The PFI has been accused of instigating and funding the 2020 riots in northeast Delhi that led to the death of 53 people. There was widescale violence, arson, and property damage.

In July, the Bihar Police busted “a potential terror module” with links to the PFI and arrested two accused from the Phulwari Sharif area of Patna for indulging in anti-India activities. A retired police officer of Jharkhand, Mohammad Jallauddin, and a former member of Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), who is also a current member of PFI and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Athar Parvez, were held.

While funds were raised in lakhs, locals were taught to use swords and knives in the name of martial arts, and the accused instigated others toward religious violence.

Documents about the PFI’s “Mission 2047” to make India an Islamic state were uncovered during a raid.

According to News18, the PFI document stated that the group may be able to “convert India into an Islamic country” if even 10 per cent of Indian Muslims rally behind it.

With inputs from agencies

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