New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Wednesday banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associate organisation for a period of five years, notifying them as an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
According to the ministry’s notification, the PFI and its affiliates were found to have “links with global terror organisation” and were involved in several “terror cases” with an “intent to create a reign of terror in the country, endangering the security and public order of the state”.
The other PFI affiliates that have been declared “unlawful” include Rehab India Foundation, Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation (Kerala).
The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) was not mentioned on the list of affiliates and has not been banned since it’s a registered political party.
The notification dated 27 September, was made public at 5:43 am Wednesday.
According to sources in the security services, the work towards “banning the organisation was on” and the coordinated raids by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) last week, along with the second crackdown by local police forces Tuesday, was part of “setting the stage up for this development.”
The MHA can issue a notification to ban an organisation as “unlawful” for six months to five years. This, however, goes to a tribunal — in this case the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) tribunal — set up within six months, and has to be upheld by it after close scrutiny of evidence against the organisation for the ban to stay.
The MHA, has to ensure there is sufficient evidence against the organisation, which includes number of cases against its members, nature of those cases, chargesheets filed and cognizance taken by courts, and convictions of members, among other things. If the evidence is not strong enough, the ban is not upheld by the tribunal and is set aside.
Till now, 39 banned organisations have been banned in India, including Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), United Liberation Front of India, Sikhs for Justice, and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, among others.
The MHA notification also says that if the organisation is not banned now, it will use this opportunity to “continue its subversive activities”, “encourage and enforce terror-based regressive regime”, “continue propagating anti-national sentiments and radicalise a particular section of society”, and “aggravate activities which are detrimental to the integrity, security and sovereignty of the country”.
Mohamed Shaik Ansari, the PFI Tamil Nadu state president, Wednesday said in a statement: “It has been announced the Popular Front of India has been banned in India. This illegal and undemocratic ban will be challenged legally by us.”
Following the ban, the organisation would stop all activities it had been carrying out in the state, he added.
‘Unlawful activities, links with terror outfits, supports militancy’
According to MHA’s notification, the PFI and its affiliate fronts have been indulging in “unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country” and have the “potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony of the country and supporting militancy in the country”.
It further says that some of the PFI’s founding members are SIMI leaders and that the PFI has linkages with the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), both of which are proscribed organisations.
There have been a number of instances, the MHA says, of international linkages of PFI with “Global Terrorist Groups” and some activists of the PFI have joined Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and participated in terror activities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“PFI and its associates have been working covertly to increase radicalisation of one community by promoting a sense of insecurity in the country, which is substantiated by the fact that some PFI cadres have joined international terrorist organisations,” the notification says. “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…”.
“The PFI is involved in several criminal and terror cases and shows sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority of the country,” it adds.
‘Expanding base, illegitimate funds’
The MHA notification says the PFI created its affiliates with the “objective of enhancing its reach among different sections of the society such as youth, students, women, Imams, lawyers or weaker sections of the society…” and to expand “its membership, influence and fund-raising capacity”.
This, it adds, was done to strengthen its capability for “unlawful activities” and these associates functioned as the “roots and capillaries” through which the PFI was “fed and strengthened”.
The MHA further stated that the PFI and its associates operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organisations, but have been “pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society, working towards undermining the concept of democracy” and that they “show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country.”
With regards to funds generated by the PFI, the notification says the office bearers and cadres of the PFI, along with others’, are “conspiring and raising funds from within India and abroad through the banking channels, and hawala donations, as part of a well-crafted criminal conspiracy”.
These funds, it says, are made to look legitimate through transferring, layering and integration using multiple accounts and are eventually used to carry out “various criminal, unlawful and terrorist activities in India”.
“The sources of deposits on behalf of PFI with respect to its several bank accounts 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,” the notification says.
“Therefore, the Income Tax Department cancelled the registration granted to PFI under section 12A or 12AA of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (43 of 1961),” it adds.
‘Engaged in subversive activities’
It adds that investigations in various cases against the PFI have revealed that with “funds” and “ideological support from outside” it has become a “major threat to internal security of the country”.
“Its cadres have been repeatedly engaging in violent and subversive acts. Criminal violent acts carried out by PFI include chopping off the limb of a college professor, cold blooded killings of persons associated with organisations espousing other faiths, obtaining explosives to target prominent people and places and destruction of public property,” the notification says.
It adds that brutal murders have been carried out by PFI cadres with the sole objective of “disturbing public peace and tranquility and creating reign of terror in public mind”.
With inputs from Sowmiya Ashok
This report has been updated with PFI’s Tamil Nadu unit President Mohamed Shaik Ansari’s statement.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)