The Centre on Tuesday banned the Popular Front of India, an Islamist organisation, for five years, accusing it of "covertly working" to increase radicalization of one community by promoting a sense of insecurity in the country. The ban came on a recommendation made by the states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat.
A notification by the Home Ministry said that a PFI probe revealed that the party and its cadres have repeatedly engaged in violent and subversive acts including chopping the limbs of a college professor and cold-blooded killings of those associated with organisations espousing other faiths.
PFI has shown sheer disrespect towards the country's constitutional authority and has become a major threat to the internal security of the country, the Home Ministry said while declaring the organization as "unlawful" under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Affiliate or front organisations including 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 Foundation, Kerala have also been declared as "unlawful association".
The ban or declaration of the outfit as "unlawful" comes amid nationwide raids by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into allegations that the PFI is involved in terror funding. The arrest of almost 270 PFI leaders has led to "flash hartals" in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Arrests were also made in Kerala in connection to the violence in the state.
BOOM looks at what is an "unlawful" association and what it means for PFI.
Why did the Centre ban PFI?
Over the past few years, PFI has been accused of "sedition", "disrupting state machinery", "promoting religious hatred" and "conspiring to instigate communal violence". It has been linked with the Tablighi Jamaat, allegedly funding the anti-CAA protests, stoking violence in Hathras after the rape and murder of a Dalit girl there, forced conversions or "love jihad", the 2020 communal riots in Northeast Delhi, and more recently the hijab row in Karnataka.
The NIA as early as 2017 had called for its ban.
The Uttar Pradesh police in October 2021 arrested Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan while he was en route to Hathras to cover the rape and murder of a Dalit girl there. Opposing bail, the UP government had told Supreme Court that Kappan, who had a "deep nexus" with PFI, was using journalism as a "cover" to meet the Hathras victim's family to spread terror and foment religious discord.
In February 2022, the Udupi Pre-University College accused the Campus Front of India, largely considered to be PFI's student wing, of instigating and coordinating protests against the hijab ban. The educational institution told Karnataka High Court that CFI was a "rank radical organization" which is "spearheading the drumbeating of hijab".
The Home Ministry said that PFI's activities are "militant and anti-national while having the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony".
In its early morning notification, the Home Ministry said PFI operated "openly as a socio-economic, educational and political organization but, they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalize a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country."
PFI's founding members also lead and have links with banned terror outfits like Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a global terror outfit, the notification said buttressing its argument for the ban.
What is the meaning of an "unlawful association"?
According to section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 the government can declare an association as "unlawful" if it indulges in "unlawful activity" as outlined in section 2 of the act. Simply, declaring an organization as an "unlawful association" means banning them.
Section 2 of UAPA says any act which intends to support claims for cession or secession of this country or a part of it; disrupts the country's sovereignty or territorial integrity; causes disaffection towards the country; or creates enmity between religious groups is an "unlawful activity".
Declaring an outfit "unlawful" has serious consequences which include criminalizing membership, forfeiture of the organisation's property, and blocking accounts. Funding an "unlawful" organization is also a crime.
SIMI, Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), and Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) are some organisations that have also been declared "unlawful".
PFI has 30 days to challenge this ban before a UAPA tribunal which is headed by a high court judge.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?