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Why & how Government banned Popular Front Of India?

The central government has announced a ban on PFI under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act-1976. In the official Notification, Government has cited a number of reason.

The central government has announced a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI), the organisation whose leaders and offices were raided in states across the country by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on September 22. A second nationwide crackdown followed on September 27, in which police in seven states arrested or detained more than 270 people suspected of having links with the PFI.

Following these actions, based on allegations that members of PFI were involved in organizing terror camps and encouraging young Muslims to take part in terrorist activities, there was a general expectation that the organisation would be banned under anti-terrorist laws. The ban was announced on September 27 and published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday morning (September 28).

What is PFI (Popular front of India)?

The Popular Front of India (PFI) is a banned Indian Muslim political organisation registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 to counter Hindutva groups and pursues a radical and exclusivist style of Muslim minority politics. It was formed in 2006 through the merger of the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) and the National Development Front (NDF). The Indian government defines PFI and its employees as an “illegal association” and has banned the organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The organisation described itself as a “neo-social movement dedicated to empowering people to ensure justice, freedom, and security”. PFI has often been accused by the Indian government of being involved in anti-national and anti-social activities. In 2012, the Kerala government claimed the organisation was a revival of the banned terrorist group Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), linked to the Indian Mujahideen.

What does the PFI ban notification say?

The notice issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) imposed a five-year ban on the PFI and its affiliated organisations, including the Rehab India Foundation (RIF) and the Campus Front of India, in the Unlawful activities (prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967. The government cited several reasons in the official gazette for banning PFI and its associate organisation. 

According to the government, PFI has several associate organisations such as Rehab India Foundation (RIF) and the Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation. These organisations are created to increase the reach of PFI to different sections of society with the sole objective of expanding its membership, influence, and fundraising capacity. The above-mentioned organisations “operate openly as a socio-economic, educational and political organisation but, they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalize a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country.”

Furthermore, the PFI and its associates or affiliates, or fronts have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty, and security of the country. Some of its founding members are leaders of terrorist organisations, such as the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). There had been several instances of international linkages of PFI with Global Terrorist Groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

According to the official notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs, PFI and its associates or fronts have been working covertly to increase the radicalization of one community by promoting a sense of insecurity in the country. Therefore, the notification said, the central government had decided to declare the PFI and its various fronts as an “unlawful association” with “immediate effect”.

What is the meaning of this Ban for PFI?

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, popularly known as UAPA deals against terrorism, terror related activities, or terrorist organisations. Section 2(1)(p) of UAPA defines the term “unlawful organisation.’’ According to it any association which promotes unlawful activity, which encourages or aids persons to undertake any unlawful activity, and promote enmity between different groups on the ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc are unlawful organisation. With its notification, the Ministry of Home Affairs declared PFI and its associated organisation and fronts unlawful organisations.

Declaring an organisation a terrorist organisation has very serious consequences in law, which include the criminalisation of its membership and the forfeiture of the properties of the organisation.

How a Terrorist organisation is declared?

It is very unfortunate to state that to date there is no consensus in the world community over the definition of terrorist activity. UAPA, under section 2(1)(m) states any organisation listed in the first schedule of the said act is a terrorist organisation. Currently, Government has banned a total of 42 organisations.  Besides these 42 organisations, 13 other entities have been declared as “unlawful associations” under the UAPA, and 38 individuals have been listed as “terrorists” under Schedule Four of the Act.

What recourse is available to an unlawful organisation?

A request for de-listing of an organisation can be submitted to the central government by the organisation itself or by any person affected by the organisation’s inclusion in the schedule. A review board, headed by a current or former Supreme Court judge, is then appointed to review the application. The organisation will be removed if the review board finds that there is no material evidence against the said organisation. 

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