Intelligence agencies have warned the government about the expansion of radical Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) in northern India, especially in Delhi, the National Capital Region (NCR) and Uttar Pradesh.
The government has been advised to be more cautious towards foreign funds being received by the outfit with a message that the federation has been instrumental in ‘stoking violence’ as well as anti-India activities in various states in the last seven years.
The agencies have also mentioned in the alert to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that the various of its sleeper cell members are residing in Delhi as well as neighbouring Noida and Greater Noida. Besides, they also have expanded their footprint in Uttar Pradesh.
It is learnt that the PFI handlers activate their sleeper cells soon after they get any chance to trigger any incident in any north-Indian states that may lead to violence in India. Besides, the PFI is suspected to have links with the banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and has been recruiting members for its group as well as establishing its various sister modules.
The inputs were shared following the arrest of four of its suspected members from Uttar Pradesh on Monday night for allegedly playing a role in igniting violent activities in the recent Hathras case linked to the gang-rape of a 19-year-old Dalit girl, which triggered a political outcry across the country.
PFI’s complicity is suspected by the Uttar Pradesh Police which on Monday nabbed four men — Atiq-ur Rehman of Muzaffarnagar, Siddique of Malappuram, Masood Ahmed of Bahraich and Alam of Rampur — at Mathura’s Math toll plaza on a tip-off while on their way to Hathras from Delhi.
Police said during the interrogation, it came to light that the four had links with the PFI and its associate organisation Campus Front of India (CFI).
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has referred to “recent incidents” and said “anarchist elements” are trying to trigger communal and caste violence in the state after the Hathras incident.
The PFI, a controversial Kerala-based group that was formed in 2006 as a successor to the National Democratic Front (NDF), has come under the scanner of the Union Home Ministry for allegedly instigating demonstrators to clash with Uttar Pradesh Police during the more than one-month-long amended citizenship law protest which started last year and continued till the beginning of this year.
The BJP-led government in the state has accused the organisation and its political front, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) of “masterminding and instigating violence” during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Uttar Pradesh police had arrested 25 members of the PFI from various districts in connection with the violent protests against the CAA in Lucknow and other criminal activities.
The PFI, which has in the past also been linked with political killings in Kerala, is labelled by many as a ‘radical Muslim’ group. Though on its website, the party describes itself as a move “towards co-ordination and management of efforts for the achievement of socio-economic, cultural and political empowerment of the deprived and the downtrodden and the nation at large.”
The group in past has denied allegations against its members and slammed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which, it said, “has empowered the big business houses and the urban and rural elite, as it ignored the basic needs of the people below”.
Although its stronghold is in Kerala, the PFI has expanded its footprint across the country with similar-minded groups such as the Tamil Nadu-based Manitha Neethi Pasarai and the Karnataka Forum for Dignity, among others.
The Kerala-based organisation has a chequered past, and has been on the radar of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) radar for a long time, for its alleged terror links.
PFI first came under the scrutiny of the agency in 2013 when the NIA had taken over a case where PFI members were accused of running an arms’ training camp in Kannur’s Narath.
Earlier, it was alleged that 22 PFI activists hatched a criminal conspiracy to impart training to some youth for using explosives and weapons, with an intention to prepare them for terrorist activities. An NIA court let off one person but found 21 others guilty under various charges.
Further investigation into their funding and links with international terrorist groups is underway.
Furthermore, multiple reports suggest that between 2010 to 2013, the Kerala Police seized several country-made bombs, weapons, CDs and several documents containing Taliban and Al-Qaeda propaganda from PFI activists in a series of searches.
PFI was also accused of chopping off a college professor’s hand because he set a question in a paper that was ‘disrespectful’ to prophet Muhammad.
In a twist to the Kerala gold smuggling case in which the state Chief Minister’s office is in the dock, the NIA has found links of PFI in the case with the arrest of Muhammad Ali Ebrahim and Muhammad Ali.
NIA investigators suspect that the PFI now has units in 22 states across the country.