Among those arrested are PFI President OMA Salam, Vice President EM Abdul Rahiman, National Secretary VP Nazarudheen Elamaram, Head of State of Kerala CP Mohd Basheer, National Council Member Prof. P. Koya and the founding president of the Indian Social Democratic Party (SDPI), E. Aboubakar. They were convicted under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Some of those arrested are former members of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) organization.
The allegations against the PFI range from conducting anti-national activities, including raising funds in India and abroad for committing a terrorist act, organizing boot camps to provide armed training and the radicalization of people to join banned organizations like ISIS.
Formed in 2007, PFI became a spin-off organization of SIMI after it was banned by the Government of India (GoI) in 2001. Since its inception, PFI has maintained that it is an organization that fights for human rights. human rights, in particular the rights of minorities, Dalits and marginalized communities.
In 15 years, PFI has expanded its presence across the country. It has various units including the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) which deals with its political ideology, Campus Front of India – its student wing, National Women’s Front, Rehab India Foundation – an NGO and Empower India Foundation – their group reflection.
Intelligence reports in the past have indicated that the PFI has its roots in the National Democratic Front (NDF), a radical Islamic group formed in 1993 in response to the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992. The NDF is believed to have been formed by banned members of the Islamic Student Movement. Movement of India (SIMI).
PFI has been on the radar of various state and central agencies for several years now, especially when its name has been linked to very serious cases in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country. As a group, PFI always protests against any action taken by the Government of India under the UAPA against any individual or group. He is also known to be a sympathizer with several Islamic terrorist organizations around the world.
The question that arises after Wednesday’s action is whether a ban will ensure that PFI’s alleged terrorist activities are curbed once and for all.
When SIMI was banned in 2001, its known associates fell under the police radar and were arrested, deported or, in some cases, vetted, but those who remained anonymous, went into hiding and remade surface with new outfits like Indian Mujahideen (IM) and PFI among others. Will banning PFI have the same result? Will its members go underground and then reemerge with a new outfit?
If the experience of banning SIMI is to be believed, then a ban on PFI will have its fair share of desired effect. Banning an organization gives authorities the power to control and curb all activities of that organization and the people associated with it. The police and other agencies can act under various laws, including the UAPA. Bank accounts, offices and units can be seized and sealed. It also serves as a deterrent to others who might be inclined to follow their path.
Formed in 1977 in Aligarh, UP, SIMI had grown into a large organization with its presence all over the country. He has also been implicated and named in several cases across the country, including terrorism-related cases. While the government had succeeded in identifying and banning some of its members, the organization itself was not banned until 2001. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the United States of America (USA ), the GoI banned SIMI and the ban continues until Date. The ban destroyed SIMI’s presence in the field. All known associates, addresses, locations, units, bank accounts, offices were sealed and seized. He dealt a bodily blow to SIMI, and he was never able to revive.
A major challenge that the NIA and other agencies could face if PFI is banned is that PFI does not keep records of its members, making it difficult for authorities to identify individuals who are members and take action. against them. The fear is that those anonymous members who manage to escape the clutches of the NIA or other agencies, may resurface in a new avatar and outfit months or years later. Similar to what happened after SIMI was banned.
Another big challenge is that with the help of technology, these banned groups and their members can remain anonymous and underground and continue to spread their message, propaganda and radicalization work. The NIA and other agencies will have their work cut out to keep track of all of the online activity of these outfits and their members, especially those who remain anonymous.
The writer is Ret. Director General of Police (DGP), Maharashtra, former Mumbai Police Commissioner and Joint Director of CBI and IB.