India bans Muslim political organisation for ‘terror activities’

Members of the Muslim organization Popular Front of India (PFI) undergo parade training at a football ground in Kottayam, southern Kerala state, India, 27 June 2010 (AP)
Members of the Muslim organization Popular Front of India (PFI) undergo parade training at a football ground in Kottayam, southern Kerala state, India, 27 June 2010 (AP)

India has banned the Islamic organisation Popular Front of India for five years after the government accused it of being involved in terrorism and radicalising people for “anti-national activities”.

“The Popular Front of India and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been found to be involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up,” the home ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The government has also banned the affiliates of the group, including 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 government said that it found a “number of instances of international linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups”, including the Isis and accused it of participating in “terror activities” in middle eastern countries of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been working covertly to increase radicalization 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,” said the ministry in its gazette notification.

The government has invoked the provision under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which gives extraordinary powers to law enforcement agencies to deal with activities allegedly directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. Under the provision, it can also designate a person as terrorist pending court trials.

The ban follows the arrest of nearly 200 members and raids on its offices across the country, this month.

Founded in 2006, PFI has supported causes like protests against a 2019 citizenship law that many Muslims deem discriminatory, as well as protests in the southern state of Karnataka this year demanding the right for Muslim women students to wear the hijab in class.

Mohammed Tahir, a counsel for the group, rejected the allegations of terrorism, accusing the probe agencies of fabricating evidence. He said the government failed to present evidence of the organisation receiving outside money and funding terror activities in India.

PFI’s student wing, the Campus Front of India, called the action a political vendetta and propaganda.

"We are against the concept of a Hindu nation, we are against fascism, not India," Imran PJ, national secretary of the CFI, told Reuters. "We will overcome this challenge. We will revive our ideology after five years. We will also consider going to court against the ban."

Earlier on Tuesday, the group had denied the accusation of violence and anti-India activities when its offices were raided and members detained.

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which also work with the group on some issues was not included in the ban. It slammed the notification saying in a statement saying: “Freedom of speech, protests and organisations have been ruthlessly suppressed by the regime against the basic principles of the Indian constitution.”

“The regime is misusing the investigation agencies and laws to silence the opposition and to scare the people from expressing the voice of dissent. An undeclared emergency is clearly visible in the country.”

The ban is likely to stir an outcry among opponents of the Narendra Modi government and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, which retains broad public support and a comfortable majority in parliament.

Communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims have been on the rise, which critics attribute to Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.

Additional reporting from the wires