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Midnight Crackdown on the Popular Front of India
|by Dr. Jaipal Singh|
The all India crackdown and the five-year ban imposed on the Popular Front of India (PFI) by the Government of India on 28 September 2022 did not come as a surprise to many nationalist and patriotic Indians. Such signals were already received with the outfit already being on radar of the National Investigating Agency (NIA), which conducted massive raids in the premises of the ill-famed organization simultaneously in many cities across the country in a mid-night well-orchestrated operation nick-named “Operation Octopus” on 22 September, selectively repeated it again on 27 September mainly on the charges of terror funding and money laundering. The organization had already achieved enough notoriety over the years and its name invariably appeared on almost every occasion whenever any large-scale protests, communal riots or even several individual violent incidents occurred involving the minority (Muslim) community. For instance, clear footprints of PFI were marked in anti-CAA protests across the country in 2019-20, prolonged Shaheen Bagh dharna and conversion rackets. Although the organization has countrywide network but traditionally the State of Kerala has remained its ideal strong hold and operating base. So, it was not surprising that a large-scale violent hartal was organized by PFI on the very next day in Kerala on 23 September protesting against NIA raids.
Basic Facts about Popular Front of India
The very nomenclature of the spontaneous and swift operation i.e. Operation Octopus carried out explains gravity of the nefarious activities and actions of the organization in a certain way. Octopus is a soft bodied and eight-limbed animal (Invertebrate) who can readily and radically alter its shape to squeeze through even small gaps. They vary from a small size of few inches to gigantic bodies weighing around fifteen kilograms or even more with arm's length reaching to over five metres. In mythology, they are often depicted as monsters, such as Kraken of Norway or Gorgon of ancient Greece. Some Islamic organizations like PFI have somewhat similar nature with wide network including linkages with the terrorist outfits like ISIS, operating under different nomenclatures with multiple allied organizations/associations and proscribed aims concerning the welfare of community but covertly engaged in a range of unlawful and notorious activities such as terror funding, money laundering, hate campaign against other communities (particularly Hindus), religious conversions, organizing and participating in violent protests against the policies and programmes of the state, and so on.
Although the actual date of formation and span of existence of PFI may be debatable but according to one version, it was founded in 2006 following the merger of the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) and the National Development Front (NDF). The umbrella organization has several allied organizations and wings to cater to different sections of the Muslim community, including a National Women’s Front (NWF) and the Campus Front of India (CFI). Accordingly, the current ban of five years on PFI has been also imposed by the Central Government on eight affiliate organization and the alleged two wings. Since its formation and proactive involvement in nefarious activities, several allegations of linkage and cooperation with various Islamic terrorist groups, hate campaign, money laundering, murder, kidnapping, intimidation, rioting, Love Jihad, and a range of activities relating to the religious extremism have often been made against it. Few cases such as an assault on Prof TJ Joseph in 2010 in which PFI operatives had severed his hand for the alleged derogatory references to prophet Muhammad and the Love Jihad case of Akhila Ashokan (Hadiya later on) made national news headlines for weeks together. In the later case, reportedly the lady was patronized by the women wing of PFI and entire funding of over Rs 90 lakh was made by the organization to successfully fight the case in the Supreme Court of India.
Many knowledgeable sources and senior police officials from Kerala and other states believe that the PFI is actually nothing but resurrection of the erstwhile banned the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). As per records, the SIMI was initially formed in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh on 25 April 1977 with Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at the Western Illinois University Macomb, Illinois, as the founding President of the outfit. Initially, it emerged as a student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) but after some time it developed serious differences with parent organization. Accordingly, JIH decided to abandon SIMI and floated another student wing, namely the Students Islamic Organization (SIO). Later on, the southern states, particularly Kerala became SIMI’s main stronghold. The young extremist students declared Jihad against India advocating the ‘liberation of India’ by converting it into an Islamic state with ultimate aim of establishing Dar-ul-Islam (land of Islam) by either converting everyone to Islam by coercion or through violent measures. SIMI was widely believed to be against Hinduism, western beliefs and ideals, as well as other non-Islamic cultures with its professed ideology and objectives of regulating human life on the basis of holy Quran, active propagation of Islam and jihad for the cause of Islam.
The members of SIMI were supposedly students upto the age of thirty years and after reaching this age they were expected to retire from the outfit. They were known for their extremist view and militant posture on different issues concerning the Muslim community. For instance, Al Qaeda Chief Osama bin Laden was a true Mujahid in their outlook and belief, who had undertaken Jihad on behalf of the Ummah. Nationalism had no place in their consideration, which according to them was like a fake idol, devised by the non-Muslims and enemies of the Islam to divide the Muslim community in an endeavour to weaken them. Reportedly, the SIMI members branded all non-Muslims as 'kafirs', which were the enemies of Allah (God) and, therefore, violent Jihad required dealing with them. Some SIMI leaders were also reported to have close links with Pakistan-based terrorist groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) or even Harkat-ul-Jehad-al Islami of Bangladesh (HuJI-B) engaged in scheming for the destabilization in India. In Kerala alone, they were reportedly operating under the cover of some twelve organizations with bases even in cities like Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. Thus the alleged militant outfit had established a vast network in various parts of the country with a vigorous recruitment drive, when the Central Government under late Prime Minister AB Vajpayee had a crack down on SIMI banning it in 2001. The ban was even review by courts but it was finally upheld by the Supreme Court.
The last review on SIMI was made by the Government of India in February 2019, and ban was further extended for a period of five more years starting February 1, 2019 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). It is common belief and experts’ opinion that it’s only SIMI which is operating under the garb of PFI. The majority of former leaders of SIMI is currently holding important posts in PFI or identified with PFI in some capacity. For instance, the national Chairman of PFI, Abdul Rehman, was the former national secretary of SIMI; similarly, outfit’s state secretary in Kerala, Abdul Hameed, was the former secretary of SIMI in the state. The unlawful activities of the organization have gone unabated over the years. Just to cite a few cases: the Kerala Government affidavit filed in the state High Court few years back alleged active involvement of PFI ranks in at least twenty-seven political murders, mostly from the cadre of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and some from CPI(M), eighty-six attempt to murder cases and hundred and six communal cases registered in the state. Recently, PFI organized a rally “Save the Republic” on 21 May 2022 in Alappuzha, Kerala wherein a child sitting on a man’s shoulder raised slogan:
“Hindus should keep rice for their last rites and Christians should keep incense for their last rites. If you live decently, you can live in our land and if you don’t live decently, we know Azadi (freedom). Live decently, decently, decently”
The child has not been used for the first time to spread hate messages; instead, they are being frequently used and indoctrinated since very early age by the outfit in various parts. The aforesaid message for kafirs in Islamic land is loud and clear and does not need any further interpretation. The said SIMI connection has been dubbed as baseless by the PFI leaders in the past claiming that PFI was formed in 1993 while SIMI was banned in 2001. In the past, many police and army officers have stated that PFI maintained close links with several terror groups as well as ISI, the intelligence agency of Pakistan. In a series of raids made by Kerala police in 2013, they had recovered large number of illegal and lethal weapons, bombs, human shooting targets, explosive raw materials, gunpowder, foreign currency, swords, incriminating documents, and so on. In fact, there is a long list of ugly and unlawful events, all of which are not being referred to for the sake of brevity here. On one occasion, the Government of Kerala submitted their considered opinion to the Kerala High Court that the PFI was nothing but a resurrection of banned SIMI and its existence was inimical to the safety of the country. Irony of the Indian state is that despite all this, several opposition parties are known to have no issues with their activities. In fact, Hamid Ansari, two terms Vice-President of India, is known to have shared stage with them in September 2017 during an event.
While full details of weapons, explosives, foreign currency and incriminating documents recovered during the nationwide raids by NIA and associated agencies have not been fully revealed in the public domain but one of the most incriminating materials recovered was a manual on how to make IEDs. The document titled “How to make IEDs using easily available material’, inter alia suggests that if Muslim youth knows how to make bombs, it will empower them. The five-point aim of making/using IED devices includes empowerment and strengthening of the oppressed youth, destabilize the well-developed infrastructure of pagans (Hindus), attract wide attention in a single blow, create terror in the hearts of infidels, and regain the lost dominance of Muslims in the Indian sub-continent. Besides, some other known items caught and confiscated during the raids include high-tech communication devices such as wireless sets, handheld VHF with GPS, undocumented cash, brochures and CDs pertaining to Vision 2047, ISIS, Gazwa-e-Hind, etc.
Response and Reaction in Media on PFI Ban
The Government of India declared PFI as "unlawful association" on 28 September 2022 and temporarily banned the organization for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). While citing that the organization is prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty and security of the country, the notification issued by the Home Ministry inter alia also referred to PFI’s linkages with terror organizations like SIMI, Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Further, apart from PFI, its eight associate organizations Rehab India Foundation, Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organization, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala have also been simultaneously banned. This ban has received a wide national and international coverage with several Indian political parties, organizations and people speaking or writing both in favour and against the banned organization(s) and action taken by the government in the matter.
While for many years, PFI has been active mainly in the southern states with Kerala as its nerve centre but gradually its network with unlawful activities spread over many parts of northern India and northeast too including the national capital Delhi. For instance, PFI had major role in organizing the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests during 2019-20 in Delhi followed by anti-Hindu riots during the visit of the American President in February 2020. According to reports, the radical Islamic organization PFI was planning major unrest in Delhi and other parts with Shaheen Bagh type protest and a repeat of the Delhi anti-Hindu riots when the NIA and other federal agencies conducted raids and arrests in a largest ever nationwide crackdown. Owing to these reasons and other violent incidents, it has been quite for long that people with nationalist and patriotic fervor in India felt that the unlawful and antinational activities of this organization must be curtailed as early as feasible. Naturally all such people in political parties, electronic and print media, members of the civic society and common people as well have welcomed the action taken by the NIA against PFI under the orders of the national government.
However, the response of the opposition parties in general, a section of media and intellectuals including Indian Muslims has been mixed with various Muslim organizations divided over the ban on PFI. As for the main opposition, the oldest political party, the Indian National Congress (INC or the Congress), is currently struggling for its own survival and this nemesis is their own making. Since independence in 1947, the Congress has been monopolized by one family, which is responsible for implementing many unilateral legislation in socio-religious and economic matters that favour Indian Muslims and Christians at the cost of the majority Hindus and other minority communities in India, while the Constitution catered for similar opportunities and equal treatment for all communities. The former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on record to have once stated during his tenure that the minorities, particularly Muslims, have first claim on the national resources. Although this is not the subject of this essay but author has no hesitation to state that the Congress probably pursued such appeasement policy keeping an eye on the huge electorate but such actions in the long term have only proved detrimental widening a rift between two major communities as also a major threat for the unity and integrity of nation. The party has adopted a cautious approach about ban on PFI but their leaders have generally been critical about the Central Government on this issue on various grounds.
Many regional parties have maintained tactical silence on the issue but the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) Supremo Lalu Yadav, who himself is convicted many times and facing terms of imprisonment in several corruption cases, angrily blurted out that all organizations like PFI including RSS should be banned. According to him, the RSS represents Hindu extremism; hence it needs to be first banned. Two major communist parties, CPM and CPI, agreed that PFI holds extremist views but stated that banning the outfit was not the right way to tackle the problem, without explaining the “right way”. Self-proclaimed Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi opined that he always opposed PFI’s approach but the draconian ban on the outfit cannot be supported. BSP leader Mayawati alleged that action to ban PFI has been taken just to appease RSS. A few leaders from Congress and other opposition parties wanted similar action against RSS (a nationalist and patriotic organization). However, surprisingly the Kerala state unit of the Congress and its coalition partner Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has welcomed the decision of the Central Government while pleading that RSS should also be simultaneously banned. Similar mixed reactions have also been received from many Muslim organizations in favour and against ban.
PFI: Vision and Mission on India
Recently, the police officials in the State of Bihar had recovered an 8-page incriminating document named ‘India Vision 2047’, which has been widely circulated internally among the PFI cadre where the strategy is laid down how to completely dominate the ‘coward Hindus’ and subjugate them even if just about 10% Muslims agree to rally behind them. This visionary document is full of hateful ideas and plan for establishment of an Islamic government in India, killing of ‘coward Hindus’, arms training to the cadre personnel, and infiltration in judiciary and other crucial wings of the government. This inter alia also mentions a plan to launch full-fledged armed uprisings against the Indian State with the active assistance of their trained cadre with the support of Islamic countries like Turkey. Reportedly, the organization has already sought assistance and appealed other Islamic countries for help in their endeavour of bringing the Indian State and Hindus to their knees. The Bihar police is said to have even identified former SIMI members and ex-police officer Jallauddin (already in custody), who had raised huge funds in pursuance of the aforesaid goal.
The full 8-page document on PFI’s India Vision have already been accessed by media and several other agencies and its contents have already been telecasted by private television channels recently and readily available in public domain, which are indeed even more shocking than what the police has revealed so far. Reportedly, the vision document comes with a tagline underlining the goal of PFI as “Towards Rule of Islam in India”. It fear mongers the current status of Muslims in India and spells out the plan and actionable points for the faithful Muslims living in India, The salient points made in the vision document to establish the rule of Islam by subjugating ‘coward’ Hindus are briefly indicated in the following paragraphs. Incidentally, the term “coward” for Hindus has been used time and again.
The document begins with depicting the condition of Indian Muslims as victims which so often other Islamists too plead to incite them to pick up arms somewhat laments as under:
Then the PFI sets a goal for an Islamic government of India to be achieved by the year 2047 expecting the political power to return back to the community by that year, which according to them was unjustly taken away by the British Raj. To achieve this, the paper narrates that the Muslim community had always been in minority and they do not need a majority to win back their lost power. Hence PFI is confident that even if 10% of total Muslim population rally behind it, they would subjugate the ‘coward’ majority community (Hindus) to their knees and bring back the glory of Islam. The document reiterates PFI’s commitment to establish an Islamic government of India and insists that the PFI cadre and Muslim youth must remember that Allah had created the Kayanaat (world) and Muslims were created to establish the law of Allah and to work for Deen. To achieve the aforesaid objective, four stages of progression towards establishing an Islamic rule have been outlined.
Stage 1: In the first stage, all Muslims in different areas and different sects need to unite under the banner of PFI. They would, in turn, recruit more members giving them arms training, including the use of rods, swords and other weapons in offensive and defensive techniques. To achieve this objective, the document says that Muslim community must be repeatedly reminded of its grievances; all frontal organizations should focus on expanding and recruiting new members; and Muslims must insist on their Islamic identity rather than being an Indian.
Stage 2: PFI openly calls for the use of violence against the majority community (Hindus) in the next stage. It says that the grievances of the Muslims should be reiterated over and over again and violence should be used “selectively” to “terrorize opponents” (Hindus). Talent must be spotted for imparting advance training to cadre personnel on weapons including fire arms and explosives. Simultaneously, use of punch lines such as Constitution, National Flag, Ambedkar, etc. shall be continued to shield true intention of establishing Islamic rule and for outreach to SCs/STs/OBCs; efforts be made to infiltrate to executive and judiciary to have favourable outcome in the matters of community’s interest; and liaison with Islamic countries be made for funding and other support.
Stage 3: The PFI vision says that a close alliances with the SC/ST/OBC Hindu community be made to win as many as possible seats in elections, which would be achieved by creating a divide between RSS and SC/ST/OBCs through propaganda that RSS is interested only in the welfare of upper caste Hindus. The secular parties would also need to be discredited to form a purely Muslim party catering to their needs. The PFI asks its cadres to stockpile weapons and explosives at this stage, participate in marches and physical defense of the community wherever required as also attack anyone working against their interest. To achieve these objectives, all frontal organizations must seamlessly work together through these stages.
Stage 4: By now, the vision document says that PFI should become undisputed leader of the Muslim community sidelining all other Muslim and secular organizations. According to their assessment, if they succeed in garnering the trust of 50% of SCs/STs/OBCs that would be suffice to grab power at the national level. “Once in power, all important positions in the executive and judiciary as well as the Police and Army are to be filled with loyal cadres. The doors of all Government departments including Army and Police would be opened to be filled with loyal Muslims and SCs/STs/OBCs to correct the past injustice and imbalances in their recruitment”, the document said.
According to PFI vision document, the activities and actions of the organization would be more overt at this stage with cadre fully trained in arms and exponentially increased by the time. An Islamic Constitution shall be established based on Islamic principles eliminating those who stand in the way or working against their interests. By this time, the external forces would also come for help as required by PFI cadres. Ultimately, a systematic and widespread elimination of all opponents would be undertaken to return Islamic glory.
With a view to eliminating the majority community and establishment of Islam, PFI has outlined concrete actionable points in the vision document. This inter alia include constant reminder (propaganda) to the community about the alleged threat from the rise of Hindutva and RSS backed government, atrocities perpetuated upon them such as the demolition of Babri Masjid, communal riots and lynching of Muslims. Mass mobilization of the community has been envisaged as a priority area to regain the lost glory through concerted inclusiveness, outreach and engagement. PFI intends to recruit every, or at least one, eligible member from each Muslim household so that it reaches every house. Shockingly, they even aim to carry on arms training to their PE cadre camouflaging it as Yoga classes and the ‘Healthy People Healthy Nation’ campaign. Such training routines include nomenclatures like the basic PE course, secondary PE course and PE masters. In short, the document contains point-wise details of their roadmap highlighting all actionable points including methodology to collect information such as personal details of Hindu/RSS leaders and their location before the final show down, and mobilizing needful help from the foreign countries.
From the recent massive crackdown on the PFI by the investigating and law-enforcing agencies from Centre, it is evident that the anti-national and unlawful activities of this Islamic outfit had crossed certain unacceptable amplitude. From the large scale arrests of PFI leaders and activists as well as recovery of incriminating material from their establishments, it is also pretty clear that the outfit has been indulging in the large scale indoctrination of the Muslim youths with Sharia law and Islamic fundamentalism in order to recruit them for anti-national activities from various parts of the country. The activities of the outfit have not been limited to indoctrination only; instead, they have actively indulged in conducting workshops and training to teach Muslims youth the use of deadly weapons, martial arts and explosives with the primary aim of recruiting them to wage jihad in the state. Of late, the footprints of this organization have been visible in several violent and ugly incidents of anti-national activities such as Shaheen Bagh protests, anti-CAA riots, Bengaluru riots, riot in many cities of India on Hindu festive occasions, and so on.
The recent move of the Government would certainly curtail or slow down nefarious activities of such organizations detrimental to the unity and integrity of the nation. The prompt action taken by the Kerala High Court directing PFI to deposit rupees 5.2 crore for the damages caused to the public and private properties by the activists of the banned outfit during flash hartal on 23 September protesting NIA action could also be cited as a welcome move for speedy remedial action. The event also highlights the need for a uniform central legislation for the time bound inquiry into damages caused during public protests, recovery against damaged/lost assets and prompt criminal prosecution of rioters. The vision document calls for the unity among all sects of the minority (Muslim) community while simultaneously stressing the need for creating a divide between the so-called upper classes and SCs/STs/OBCs of the majority community (Hindus). This is indeed a very dangerous preposition that not only the government but also all truly secular and well-meaning people must take cognizance of so as to avert and defeat unsolicited propaganda to divide the majority community. Apart from the instruments (people) of disruption, even more vital is to tackle the sick and injurious ideology.
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