Newsroom, Sept 22: More than a hundred functionaries of Popular Front of India, majority of them from Karnataka and Kerala, were arrested today following a multi-agency operation headed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) across 11 states.
The raids come following allegations levelled against some of PFI activists of supporting terrorist activities in the country. The PFI has rubbished the allegation as blatant lie.
According to sources, at least 106 functionaries were picked by the NIA, ED and state police in what officials described as the "largest-ever investigation process till date".
As many as 20 people were arrested from Karnataka, while 22 were apprehended from Kerala, followed by Maharashtra (20), Tamil Nadu (10), Assam (9), Uttar Pradesh (8), Andhra Pradesh (5), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry and Delhi (3 each) and Rajasthan (2).
Officials said the searches were conducted at the premises of PFI leaders on suspicion of involving in terror funding, organising training camps. Sources said PFI all India head OMA Salam, PFI Delhi-Haryana Zonal incharge Maulana Waris and PFI Delhi president Parvez Ahmed were among those arrested.
The PFI, formed in Kerala in 2006 and headquartered in Delhi, said in a statement, "The raids are taking place at the homes of national, state and local leaders of PFI. The state committee office is also being raided. We strongly protest the fascist regime's move to use agencies to silence dissenting voices."
Home Minister Amit Shah was briefed about the searches by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and NIA Director General Dinkar Gupta. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was also present at the meeting.
On September 18, the NIA had conducted raids at 38 locations in Telangana and two locations in Andhra Pradesh in connection with a case registered against PFI functionaries alleging that they were "organising camps for imparting training to commit terrorist acts and to promote enmity between different groups on the basis of religion".
The PFI, which is accused by law enforcement agencies of promoting radical Islam, is also under the ED scanner for money laundering charges in connection with "fuelling" protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the 2020 Delhi riots, alleged conspiracy in Hathras (a district in Uttar Pradesh) over alleged gang-rape and death of a Dalit woman among others.
In February last year, the ED filed its first charge sheet against PFI and its student-wing Campus Front of India (CFI), claiming its members wanted to "incite communal riots and spread terror" in the aftermath of the Hathras gang-rape case of 2020. The second charge sheet filed this year claimed that a hotel based in the UAE "served" as a money laundering front for the outfit.
The NIA had in 2017 sought a ban on the PFI alleging that it was involved in extremist activities detrimental to national security. It also accused the outfit of imposing strict religious orthodoxy among Muslims.