Following the then-MoS for Home Kiren Rijiju's statement in February 2018 that the Government of India was considering banning the Islamist organisation Popular Front of India, and as Sirf News had rightly predicted on 18 September where it said the administration was trying to gather incontrovertible evidence against the outfit, Home Minister Amiot Shah and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met top officials today to take the process forward, sources said. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have probed multiple cases in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, and other states with direct or indirect links with PFI.
The PFI is banned in several states already but not by the union government so far. Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta had told the Supreme Court on 28 April 2021 that the union government "as per my information… is also in the process of banning it".
The ongoing coordinated raids on premises of the PFI and more than 100 of its top functionaries are a culmination of a series of cases registered in the last two years dealing with the alleged involvement of its members in “anti-national activities” and the organisation’s dubious funding patterns, sources told Sirf News.
The agencies probed multiple cases in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, and other states with direct or indirect links with PFI. They have shared their findings with the union home minister, who has asked the agencies to closely follow every link related to the outfit.
Today, the NIA led the raids across 11 states including Tamil Nadu, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Rajasthan. Over 100 top leaders and office bearers, including PFI’s chairman, OMA Salam, have been taken into custody.
Cases against PFI
The PFI is facing probes including for its role in fuelling anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests before the 2020 Delhi riots. Its leaders Abdul Razzak Peediyakkal and Ashraf MK (Kerala) face money laundering charges. The PFI is also accused of trying to create unrest in Bihar’s Phulwari Sharif, etc.
The ED had said in June that it has attached Rs 68.62 lakh bank deposits of the PFI and the Rehab India Foundation (RIF) linked to it. It cited its probe and said PFI and RFI received huge amounts of money including in cash from “questionable sources”. ED said Rs 60 crore were deposited in the accounts of PFI and this includes cash deposits of over Rs 30 crore since 2009. “Similarly, around Rs 58 crore have been deposited in the accounts of RIF since 2010.”
The ED said “proceeds of crime” mobilised in the form of cash were deposited in PFI’s bank accounts by falsely projecting them as donations from sympathisers and members. “…to obliterate the fund trail and circumvent the regulatory rigour, proceeds of crime were mobilised in the form of cash and deposited by PFI leaders in the bank accounts of various individuals and immediately thereafter these funds were transferred from bank accounts to PFI’s bank account,” the ED said in June.
The ED said it found PFI’s funding links in Gulf countries, where funds were “clandestinely” sent to India through underground and illegal channels via foreign remittances into the bank accounts of the organisation’s sympathisers, office bearers, members and their relatives and associates in India.
In November 2021, the ED filed a charge sheet against PFI, naming Atikur Rahman, Masud Ahmed, journalist Sidhique Kappan, Mohammad Alam, and KA Rauf Sherif. The agency cited its probe and said over Rs 100 crore have been deposited in the accounts of PFI over the years including in cash.
PFI is a successor of the National Democratic Front (NDF), which was founded in Kerala’s Kozhikode in 1989 following political clashes. Martial arts training centres came come up in Kozhikode for the Muslim youth and the NDF took shape there. Babri Masjid demolition provided an impetus to Muslim organisations in Kerala to form resistance groups to meet the challenges from the Sangh Parivar, according to a 2017 NIA dossier on PFI.
The 19-page dossier said most of the NDF’s founding members were ex-Students’ Islamic Movement of India members, who wanted an effective platform for their “radical ideology”. The PFI’s formation was announced in 2006 in Bengaluru. It has since spread to Manipur, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and West Bengal. PFI also has a strong presence in Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
What are the organisations that are banned in India?
According to the MHA, the following organisations are banned in the country.
|1||Babbar Khalsa International|
|2||Khalistan Commando Force|
|3||Khalistan Zindabad Force|
|4||International Sikh Youth Federation|
|8||Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen/ Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen Pir Panjal Regiment|
|10||Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front|
|11||United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)|
|12||National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in Assam|
|13||People’s Liberation Army (PLA)|
|14||United National Liberation Front (UNLF)|
|15||People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK)|
|16||Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP)|
|17||Kanglei Yaol Kanba Lup (KYKL)|
|18||Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF)|
|19||All Tripura Tiger Force|
|20||National Liberation Front of Tripura|
|21||Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)|
|22||Students Islamic Movement of India|
|24||Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) — People’s War, All its formations and front organizations|
|25||Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), All its formations and Front Organisations|
|30||Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA)|
|31||Tamil National Retrieval Troops (TNRT)|
How can/does the MHA ban an organisation?
Among the various responsibilities of the MHA are internal security, border management, union-state relations, administration of union territories, management of Central Armed Police Forces, disaster management, etc. While Entries 1 and 2 of List II – State List – in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India say that "public order" and "police" are responsibilities of the states, Article 355 of the Constitution enjoins the union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
Thus, if aggression in the domestic circuit is established to have foreign connections, the union home ministry can intervene rather than leave it to the state to sort the problem out. The PFI, therefore, can be cornered by the Narendra Modi government using that angle.
Otherwise, the MHA monitors the internal security situation, issues appropriate advisories, shares intelligence inputs and extends manpower and financial support, guidance and expertise to the state governments for the maintenance of security, peace and harmony without encroaching upon the constitutional rights of the states.
There is no elaborate procedure involved in banning an organisation other than ensuring that the evidence stands the scrutiny of the judiciary if challenged in a court of law.
How does banning an outfit help?
Police find it easier to initiate action against individual suspects when they are found to be associated with organisations that are banned. This eases the job of law enforcers.
Other than the sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, etc that the prosecution slaps the accused with, one of the charges is his or her association with a banned outfit.