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ET Explains: Why Yogi Adityanath wants a ban on Popular Front of India (PFI)

Set up in February 17, 2007, the PFI initiated its operations as a branch of three state-level organisations - the National Development Fund (NDF) Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) Karnataka and Manitha Neethi Pasiray (MNP) Tamil Nadu. The outfit boasts of a structural presence in 17 states in India.

, ET Online|
Last Updated: Jan 03, 2020, 04.20 PM IST
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Agencies
PFI
PFI National General Secretary, M Muhammed Ali Jinnah, has stated that the National Population Register is nothing but a preliminary step towards the preparation of the National Register of Citizens.
The probe over large-scale arson in Uttar Pradesh over the citizenship act puts the spotlight on a 13-year-old Kerala-based organisation. The Yogi Adityanath government has sent a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking a ban on Popular Front of India, which it says, is responsible for inciting violence that claimed over 19 lives in the state.

Twenty-five people with ties to this outfit have been arrested, including state head Wasim. So what is the Popular Front of India and why does UP want this outfit to be banned. Here's the story:

What is Popular Front of India?
Set up in February 17, 2007, the PFI initiated its operations as a branch of three state-level organisations - the National Development Fund (NDF) Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) Karnataka and Manitha Neethi Pasiray (MNP) Tamil Nadu. The outfit boasts of a structural presence in 17 states in India and is one of the fastest-growing organisations in the country.

Its website states it is a cadre-based social movement that aims to uplift the marginalised and backward sections of the society through various programmes. PFI says that it gives special focus to the Muslim community "considering its socio-economic and political backwardness".

The organisation is headed by E. Aboobacker, who says its objectives are to promote national integration, communal amity, and social harmony among others.

The front has a political arm, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which was registered with the Election Commission of India on April 13, 2010.

Links to SIMI, ISIS, and Love Jihad
PFI is not new to controversy. The outfit is currently under the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) scanner after some of its members were tracked to Syria with Islamic State links.

The organisation, in an internal circular, has denied any association with IS.

According to reports, in raids over the years investigating agencies have found country-made bombs, weapons and CDs and several documents containing Taliban and Al-Qaeda propaganda from PFI activists.

The now-banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) too finds a mention in PFI's backstory. PFI leaders such as Abdul Rehman and Abdul Hameed were SIMI members prior to joining PFI. The Karnataka Forum for Dignity, one of the three state-level organisation of which PFI was originally a part, has also been accused of being a SIMI branch.

Another case where PFI found itself tangled was the NIA's investigation into Love Jihad. Of 94 cases investigated by the NIA, 23 such marriages were believed to have been facilitated by PFI.

Role in political killings
Political killings in southern states of India have often been linked to PFI. In May of 2019, the NIA conducted searches at 20 PFI offices at Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, and Karaikal in connection with the investigation into the murder of 41-year-old Ramalingam, a resident of Thanjavur Tamil Nadu.

The case was first investigated by Thanjavur Police which arrested 10 accused. Six of the absconding were all active members and office bearers of PFI. During searches, a number of digital devices, including mobile phones, SIM cards, laptops, had been seized. The agency further claimed that sword, sharp-edged knife and cash of Rs 2 lakhs were also recovered from 3 different houses.

PFI members have allegedly attacked professors and politicians repeatedly.

Kerala in 2012 submitted an affidavit in the state high court claiming that PFI workers were involved in 27 cases of murder of CPI(M) and RSS members.

According to reports, the Karnataka government has been contemplating recommending to the Centre to ban both the PFI and the KFD.

Why the Uttar Pradesh govt wants it banned
PFI National General Secretary, M Muhammed Ali Jinnah, has stated that the National Population Register is nothing but a preliminary step towards the preparation of the National Register of Citizens.

After protests in various districts of Uttar Pradesh, 25 members of the outfit were arrested for their alleged involvement in propagating riots across the state against the amended citizenship law, UP DGP OP Singh told ET. The police had found materials such as banners, flags and pamphlets. According to the police, the strategy was to call a large number of people for the protests for which groups were made on social media websites and photos and videos were shared to incite people against the CAA as well as the NRC.

Uttar Pradesh deputy CM, Keshav Prasad Maurya, said, "It was especially, the Popular Front of India which was behind all the damage done to property, arson and anarchy in the state. Such organisations will not be allowed to flourish, they will be banned."

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