The NIA’s fifth chargesheet against the Popular Front of India (PFI) this month named 12 members of the banned outfit’s national executive council. The central agency has frozen 77 bank accounts, including 37 belonging to the PFI, which were suspected of being “terror funding channels”.
With this, the NIA said it had thwarted the PFI’s plans to form a trained militia and carry out acts of terror and violence. In total, the NIA has filed charges against 19 people from the PFI, including 12 NEC members, founding members and senior leaders.
As an organisation, the PFI has been charged with criminal conspiracy aimed at destabilising and dismembering the country. The probe has also exposed a trail of PFI’s funding to terror operatives and weapons trainers across the country, both in cash and through regular bank transfers, in the guise of payment of salaries.
According to the NIA, all these PFI trainers have been arrested in cases registered either by the NIA or by state police forces. It has also frozen 37 bank accounts of the PFI as well as 40 bank accounts belonging to 19 individuals associated with the organisation, virtually squeezing its funding activities.
The crackdown on these bank accounts took place across India, including Guwahati (Assam), Sundipur (West Bengal), Imphal (Manipur), Kozhikode (Kerala), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), New Delhi, Jaipur (Rajasthan), Bangalore (Karnataka), Hyderabad (Telangana) and Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh).
The case was being probed since April 2022, and the NIA had revealed that the PFI had conspired to divide the country on communal lines. It has also come to light that the ultimate objective was to overthrow the existing system of secular and democratic governance in India and replace it with an Islamic Caliphate, along with sharia law.
The probe has revealed that the PFI, acting under the cover of building a mass organisation and a sociopolitical movement, was actually putting together a highly motivated, trained and secretive elite force within the larger organisation to achieve its “long-term objectives of the establishment of Islamic rule in India by 2047”.
The PFI devised a well-planned strategy to wage an armed struggle against the central government by radicalising and recruiting Muslim youth already pledged to the PFI and its ideology. These highly radicalised men were being trained in the use of arms and weapons at different arms training camps conducted by the outfit across India, with the intention of raising a well-trained militia.
The PFI members or cadres chargesheeted on Saturday were arrested in September 2022 following NIA’s searches at 39 locations, including PFI offices, across the country. The PFI was formed in 2006 with the merger of the National Development Front (NDF) of Kerala and Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD). The NEC is the top decision-making body of the PFI.
The NIA had registered a case based on inputs after the arrest of two men by the Uttar Pradesh anti-terror squad in February 2021. The youth, identified as PFI cadre Anshad Badruddin and Firoz Khan were nabbed while planning to carry out bomb blasts on Basant Panchami.
Besides arms and ammunition, the UP ATS seized from the accused a diary containing handwritten-text in Malayalam, an electronic detonator, an explosive device with battery and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). Police also seized explosives and wires.
It was subsequently found that the seized diary belonged to Badruddin, an active PFI trainer since 2010, and the Malayalam text contained coded instructions/guidelines on carrying out rioting, arson, strategy for attacks during riots, working style of PFI, route to be followed by PFI’s local area leaders, reconnaissance of local topography, how and where to cause bomb blasts and so on.
The investigation further showed that the PFI leadership was financing him and other such people to carry out acts of terror and violence in different parts of the country. Badruddin had been tasked with the responsibility of cadre expansion and providing weapons training. He had been travelling to different states to recruit people and was imparting weapons training in the guise of physical education (PE) classes.
The investigation also showed that Badruddin, along with another PFI cadre Masud Ahmed, was planning to commit acts of terror. He was found to have received about Rs 4 lakh from different PFI bank accounts for the purpose. Ahmed, who was arrested in October 2020 by the UP Police, also received money from the PFI.
Among others who had received funds from the PFI in a similar manner were Mohammed Abdul Ahad (who was chargesheeted in Hyderabad in December 2022 and is still on the run), Mohammed Irfan (also chargesheeted in Hyderabad in December 2022) and Abdul Khader Puttur (arrested in Bengaluru in September 2022).
The arrests of Badruddin and Ahmed had led to the modus operandi of the PFI. The organisation was banned by the ministry of home affairs in September 2022. It was raising or collecting funds from within India and abroad for unleashing violent and terrorist acts in different parts of India, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
The NIA also found common syllabus of physical education and arms training across different states, including the use of same code words establishing a conspiracy.
The PFI’s activities included Muslim empowerment and that of marginalised sections through campaigns and so-called social welfare schemes, under the guise of which it was promoting “anti-India” and violent agenda.
The NEC members were found to be involved in arranging for funding the arms training camps, purchase of weapons and targeted killings. Since the outfit was formed in 2006, PFI cadres have been involved in a series of murders and violent attacks, including those of leaders of organisations at variance with the PFI on religious ideas and beliefs.
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