With the Centre and state administrations now investigating cases of rioting in the wake of the protests following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Popular Front of India (PFI) has come under the scanner of the Union home ministry for allegedly instigating protestors to clash with the police in Uttar Pradesh.
The PFI, which has been charged with political killings in Kerala, is likely to be labelled a proscribed organisation by the Centre soon following its alleged involvement not just in sporadic anti-India activities, but its role in fomenting violence across Uttar Pradesh over the last three weeks. The organisation has categorically denied these charges.
Even though intelligence inputs have, in the past, indicated that the group is an offshoot of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was designated a terrorist organization and subsequently banned in 2001, the PFI was set up in 2006 as a successor to the National Development Fund (NDF), which was formed in Kerala in 1993 and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) in Karnataka – lending an inter-state dimension to the group.
The group describes itself as a cadre-based movement and also claims to work towards upholding human rights across the country, labelling itself a socio-political organization that works towards the empowerment of the minority and marginalised sections of the country.
From 2010 to 2013, in a series of searches conducted across the group’s premises, the Kerala Police seized country-made bombs, weapons and CDs and several documents containing Taliban and Al-Qaeda propaganda from PFI activists. The state administration in late 2013 stated that the group had been plotting various anti-India activities.
While the PFI stated that the searches were “undemocratic", intelligence inputs from 2017 hinted otherwise.
“On several occasions we have flagged the PFI’s activities as suspicious and they have been under the scanner on several occasions. There have also been instances of the PFI running arms camps, which have been busted in various searches by police departments, earlier as well," said an intelligence official in New Delhi.
More recently, as violent clashes erupted in New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh amid protests against the CAA, the organisation in a statement said, “Showing an unprecedented level of high-handedness, the police in large numbers forcefully entered the campus at night and assaulted students including girls and attacked them in the library, mosque and the hostels. Available visuals prove police deliberately firing on students. Police entered the campus without permission of the university authorities and inflicted atrocities without reason."
While as many as 25 people linked to the PFI have been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh administration over the last week, the Centre is now set to rope in the National Investigation Agency as well as other intelligence departments to set the wheels in motion to ban the organisation.