NIA Goes on Arrest Spree, Nabs 100 PFI Men in 11 States Over Alleged Terror Funding
Madurai: Police personnel during a raid of National Investigation Agency (NIA) at the residence of a functionary of Popular Front of India (PFI), in Madurai, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: In near simultaneous raids across the length and breadth of the country, a multi-agency operation spearheaded by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday led to the arrest of 106 activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) in 11 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country, officials said.
The maximum number of arrests were made in Kerala (22) followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka (20 each), Tamil Nadu (10), Assam (9), Uttar Pradesh (8), Andhra Pradesh (5), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry and Delhi (3 each) and Rajasthan (2).
According to the officials, the arrests were made during the raids which have been termed as the "largest-ever investigation process till date".
Details of the arrested activists were not available immediately, but officials said the arrests were done by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the police forces of 11 states so far.
The officials said the searches are taking place at the premises of persons involved in terror funding, organising training camps, and radicalising people to join proscribed organisations.
Formed in 2006, the PFI claims to strive for a neo-social movement for the empowerment of marginalised sections of India. It has, however, often been accused by law enforcement agencies of promoting radical Islam. In a statement, the PFI said "the raids are taking place at the homes of national, state and local leaders of PFI. The state committee office is also being raided".
"We strongly protest the fascist regime's move to use agencies to silence dissenting voices," it said.
The ED has been investigating the PFI's alleged "financial links" on charges of fuelling the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in the country, the 2020 Delhi riots, alleged conspiracy in Hathras (a district in Uttar Pradesh) over alleged gang-rape and death of a dalit woman, and a few other instances.
The Popular Front of India was formed in 2006 in Kerala and is headquartered in Delhi.
The probe agency has filed two charge sheets against PFI and its office-bearers before a special PMLA court in Lucknow.
In February last year, the ED filed its first charge sheet against PFI and its student-wing Campus Front of India (CFI) on money laundering charges, claiming its members wanted to "incite communal riots and spread terror" in the aftermath of the Hathras gang rape case of 2020.
Those named in the charge sheet include K A Rauf Sherif, national general secretary of CFI and a member of PFI; Atikur Rahman, national treasurer of CFI; Masud Ahmed, Delhi-based general secretary of CFI; journalist allegedly "associated with PFI" Siddique Kappan; and Mohammed Alam, another CFI/PFI member.
In the second charge sheet filed this year, the ED had claimed that a hotel based in the UAE "served" as a money laundering front for the PFI.
PFI activists stage protests in Kerala
Thiruvananthapuram: Activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) on Thursday staged protests across Kerala against the raids carried out in their organisation offices, houses of leaders and other premises by multi-agencies led by the NIA for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.
As the news of the early morning searches broke out, PFI workers took out marches to the places where the raids were carried out and raised slogans against the Centre and its investigating agencies.
However, central forces were already deployed in all such places as part of strengthening the security.
A PFI source here said protests marches were carried out in almost all districts including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur.
"The searches were mainly carried out in the offices of the state and district committees and the houses of its office-bearers. Though initially we thought the searches were conducted by the Enforcement Directorate, it has become clear later that it was by the NIA," the source told PTI.
As many as 14 office-bearers of the PFI, including national, state and district leaders, were taken into custody from the state by the central agencies, the source said.
PFI state president C P Mohammed Basheer, national chairman O M A Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram and others were among those in custody, the source added. Senior leader Abdul Sathar alleged in Kozhikode the country-wide raids at the premises of the PFI were the latest example of the state-sponsored terrorism under the BJP-led union government.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.