In a first-ever largest action, a joint team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and state police forces have arrested over 106 Popular Front of India (PFI) leaders during raids in 93 locations spreading across 15 states.
The searches were conducted at the residential and official premises of persons involved in “funding terrorism, organising training camps and radicalising people to join proscribed organisations”.
As per NIA, the accused were “organizing camps for imparting training to commit terrorist acts and to promote enmity between different groups on the basis of religion”.
The raids were conducted in a coordinated manner in Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, UP, Rajasthan, Delhi, Assam, MP, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar and Manipur.
The searches were conducted at multiple locations in the largest-ever investigation process till date. The operation started late in the night around 1 am and learnt to be concluded by 5 am involving over 1,500 personnel of state police, Central Armed Police Forces and officers of NIA and ED. Of them, alone NIA had 300 officers.
In the operation, NIA had seized incriminating materials, including large number of digital devices, sharp edged weapons, documents, more than 100 mobile phones, laptops, Rs 8,31,500 cash and other materials.
Elaborating this, NIA in a statement said, “The searches were conducted at the houses and offices of the top PFI leaders and members in connection with 5 cases registered by the NIA following continued inputs and evidence that the PFI leaders and cadres were involved in funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organising training camps for providing armed training and radicalising people to join banned organisations.”
NIA added, “A large number of criminal cases have been registered by different states over the last few years against the PFI and its leaders and members for their involvement in many violent acts. Criminal violent acts carried out by PFI such as chopping off the hand of a college professor, cold blooded killings of persons associated with organisations espousing the other faiths, collection of explosives to target prominent people and places, support to Islamic State and destruction of public property have had a demonstrative effect of striking terror in the minds of the citizens.”
Sources said that the successful crackdown on Thursday was the result of a meticulous plan, chalked out under the leadership of Union Home Minister Amit Shah on 29 August. The Home Minister called a meeting on the day to take stock of the PFI and its activities. The meeting was attended by the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval along with RAW, IB and NIA chiefs.
Shah instructed the agencies to prepare dossiers relating to PFI. They were asked to detail the crimes being committed by the PFI cadres across the country.
It was also planned that the crackdown would be across the country and in a coordinated manner without giving much scope of escape to the PFI members. ED was asked to prepare details of the financial transactions and funding of PFI across India.
In recent time, the growth of PFI has been phenomenal, admit intelligence agencies, saying it successfully exploited a growing vacuum in the community by donning the role of a saviour. The successful portrayal of the image helps PFI to mobilise funds, especially from the rich middle-eastern countries.
The PFI had its headquarters in Kozhikode earlier, but after broadening of its base, it was shifted to Delhi. PFI’s state president Nasaruddin Elamarom is one of the founding leaders of the outfit. Its all-India president E Abubaker also hails from Kerala.
The PFI was launched in Kerala in 2006 after merging three Muslim organizations floated after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 – the National Development Front of Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and Manitha Neethi Pasari of Tamil Nadu. After the demolition of the Babri mosque, many fringe outfits had surfaced in south India and PFI was formed after merging some of them.