09/27/2022, 18.48
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Government cracks down on Popular Front of India, an Islamic group, with arrests across India

India’s National Investigation Agency carried out two operations in a few days against the group which is accused of "terrorism” and radicalisation in connection with violence in Muslim neighbourhoods of the capital in 2019 and 2020 sparked by protests against changes to the country’s citizenship legislation. Its leader Oma Abdul Salam is among those detained. The Popular Front of India counters that its protests are legitimate and that no evidence exists against them.

Delhi (AsiaNews) – India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) took into custody on terrorism charges today more than a hundred people associated with the Popular Front of India (PFI), an Islamic organisation, in seven Indian states.

This is the NIA’s second large-scale operation in a week against the group. Among the arrested are 25 leaders, some also affiliated with the Social Democratic Party of India, regarded as the PFI’s political wing.

The PFI was founded in 2007 from the merger of three Islamic groups in southern India, seeking “socio-economic, cultural and political empowerment of the deprived and the downtrodden and the nation at large”.

After looking into the group’s financial activities, the NIA accused it of instigating nationwide protests in 2019 and 2020 over changes to existing citizenship legislation with serious unrest breaking out in northeast Delhi and an alleged conspiracy in Hathras, a district in Uttar Pradesh, after the rape and murder of a Dalit woman.

Raids were carried out across New Delhi, including the neighbourhoods of Nizamuddin and Shaheen Bagh.

“We have taken preventive measures,” an unidentified police officer told the Press Trust of India. And “we have deployed paramilitary forces in respective areas of the districts to ensure law and order situation and maintain peace and tranquillity in the area."

This comes five days after 108 PFI members, including chairman Oma Abdul Salam, were arrested in 15 Indian states on charges of terrorist financing as well as organising training and radicalisation camps.

In its defence, the PFI accuses the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of orchestrating raids to create an atmosphere of terror. “The NIA has carried out so many raids but has not gotten any proof,” said a PFI official.

“We are not anti-nationals,” he added. “We are protesting legally and will not tolerate them taking away our leaders in the dead of the night. If they do not release them, we will have to continue our protests. We are not going to get scared”.

As a result of the police raids, protests have broken out across Karnataka and Kerala, but former Karnataka Chief Minister and BJP leader B S Yediyurappa, the PFI should be outlawed.

The authorities in New Delhi must “ban the PFI. They should have done it much earlier. A thorough probe will reveal the conspiracy hatched by the PFI. It was planning to destabilise the central government,” Yediyurappa said.

The Popular Front of India has offices in 22 states, from Kerala to Manipur. According to experts, its growth was facilitated by mounting unease among some Muslims in the face of rising right-wing Hindu nationalist groups.

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