‘PFI is a major threat to security’: Centre declares PFI ‘unlawful’, bans it and its affiliates for 5 years  

The Popular Front of India (PFI) and its seven affiliates were banned by the Center on Wednesday for a period of five years on the grounds that they had ties to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had been involved in “many criminal and terror cases”.

Based on recommendations from the states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released the notification at 5:43 am. The action was taken a few days after over 350 activists and leaders were detained or arrested as a result of multi-agency operations directed by the NIA.

The affiliates that were prohibited by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, in addition to PFI, are the Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CFI), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation, and Rehab India Foundation.

The Center provided justification for the ban in the notification, stating that if the PFI and its affiliates or fronts’ illegal activities are not immediately curbed or controlled, the PFI and its associates will take advantage of the situation to “continue its subversive activities,” upsetting the country’s constitutional order.

The notification stated that if there is no ban, it will also promote and enforce a regressive regime based on terrorism, allow the spread of anti-national sentiments, radicalise a certain segment of society, and aggravate activities that are harmful to the integrity, security, and sovereignty of the nation.

It said, “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 claimed that with foreign financial and ideological support, it has developed into a “major threat” to national security.

Members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India served as the PFI’s founding members. The notification listed a number of incidents of “violent and subversive acts” committed by the PFI, including the amputation of Prof. TJ Joseph’s hands in Kerala. The PFI cadres, according to the ministry, have been involved in a number of terrorist attacks and the murder of numerous people, including Sanjith (Kerala, November 2021), V. Ramalingam (Tamil Nadu, 2019), Nandu (Kerala, 2021), Abhimanyu (Kerala, 2018), Bibin (Kerala, 2017), Sharath (Karnataka, 2017), R. Rudresh (Karnataka (Karnataka, 2022).

MHA said the “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 PFI’s connections to international terrorist organisations and examples of its activists joining ISIS and taking part in terrorist activities in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq were also discussed by the MHA.

While the PFI also has connections to Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned terrorist group, some of these PFI cadres affiliated to ISIS have been slain in these battle theatres and some have been detained by state police and federal agencies.

The PFI’s leaders and cadres are also charged with planning to raise money through banking channels, hawala, donations, and other methods both domestically and abroad 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 ultimately using these funds to carry out various criminal, unlawful, and terrorist activities.”

“Rehab India Foundation collects funds through PFI members and some of the members of the PFI are also members of Campus Front of India, Empower India Foundation, Rehab Foundation, Kerala, and the activities of Junior Front, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO) and National Women’s Front are monitored/coordinated by the PFI leaders,” it said.

The notice further stated that PFI’s activities were not being carried out in accordance with their stated goals and that the sources of deposits made on their behalf were not supported by the financial profiles of the account holders. It stated that PFI and Rehab India Foundation’s registration had been revoked by the Income Tax Department.

The government claimed that the PFI established the front organisations with the sole purpose of boosting its influence and capacity for fundraising among various societal groups, including youth, students, women, Imams, lawyers, and weaker societal groups. It was also said that the front groups work as “roots and capillaries” via which the PFI is fed and strengthened, with the PFI functioning as the Hub and using the affiliate groups’ large-scale outreach and fundraising power to strengthen its capacity for illegal actions.