The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government of India on Wednesday, September 28, banned Popular Front of India (PFI) and its seven affiliates for five years charging it of being involved in "several criminal and terror cases" and having links with the terror outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued the notification at 5:43 am based on recommendations from BJP-ruled states Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat. The move comes days after multi-agency raids led by NIA led to the arrest or detention of over 350 activists and leaders.
Besides PFI, the affiliates that were banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 are Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CFI), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab India Foundation.
The Centre justified its ban in the notification, saying that if there is "no immediate curb or control of unlawful activities of the PFI and its affiliates or fronts, the PFI and its associates, it will use the opportunity to "continue its subversive activities" disturbing the constitutional set up of the country.
If there is no ban, the notification said, it will also encourage and enforce terror based regressive regime, allow propagating anti-national sentiments and radicalise a particular section of society with the intention to create disaffection against the country and aggravate activities which are detrimental to the integrity, security and sovereignty of the country.
The PFI and its affiliates "operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organisations but they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and showing sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country", it said.
With funds and ideological support from outside, it said, it has become a "major threat" to internal security. The PFI’s founding members were the leaders of banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
The notification cited a number of incidents of "violent and subversive acts" carried out by the PFI, including that of chopping off the hands of Prof TJ Joseph in Kerala and cold blooded killings of a college student Abhimany in Kerala and youths Sharath, R Rudresh, Praveen Pujari and Praveen Nettaru, all from Karnataka between 2016 and 2022.
"Criminal activities and brutal murders have been carried out by PFI cadres for the sole objective of disturbing public peace and tranquility and creating reign of terror in public mind," the notification said.
The MHA also spoke about PFI's links with global terrorist groups and instances of its activists joining ISIS and participating in terror acts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of these PFI cadres linked to ISIS have been killed in these conflict theaters and some have been arrested by state police and central agencies while the PFI also has links with Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a proscribed terrorist organization.
The leaders and cadres of the PFI are also accused of conspiring and raising funds from within the country and abroad through the banking channels, and the hawala, donations, etc. as part of a "well-crafted criminal conspiracy, and then transferring, layering and integrating these funds through multiple accounts to project them as legitimate and eventually using these funds to carry out various criminal, unlawful and terrorist activities".
The notification also said the sources of deposits on behalf of PFI were not supported by the financial profiles of the account holders and the activities of PFI were not being carried out as per their declared objectives. It noted that the Income Tax Department had cancelled the registration granted to PFI and Rehab India Foundation.