The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday carried out searches in the offices of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and residences of their key office-bearers in 93 locations in 15 states. In the “largest-ever investigation process to date”, around 300 NIA officers and staffers, including almost all of its SPs, that is almost 20 per cent of the agency’s strength, were involved in a nationwide crackdown against the PFI. The raids, which started at around 3:30 am and are being seen as one of the keys to the success, took place at the premises of persons allegedly involved in terror funding, organising training camps, and radicalising people to join the proscribed organisation.
Coordinated searches were jointly conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), NIA, and the State Police forces across India. The states where raids were conducted are – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar, and Manipur.
Issuing a press statement, the agency said, “These searches were conducted at the houses and offices of the top PFI leaders and members in connection with five cases registered following continued inputs and evidence that the PFI leaders and cadres were involved in the funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organising training camps for providing armed training and radicalising people to join banned organisations.”
The NIA said that 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,” it reads.
During the raids conducted today, the NIA said incriminating documents, cash, sharp edged weapons and a large number of digital devices were seized and arrested 45 people in these cases. “While 19 accused have been arrested from Kerala, 11 from Tamil Nadu, 7 from Karnataka, 4 from Andhra Pradesh, 2 from Rajasthan, 1 each from UP and Telangana,” the agency said, adding that it is probing a total of 19 PFI related cases as of now.
Meanwhile, PFI members who got arrested during the today’s raids were produced before courts in their respective states and were sent to police custody for further probe.
Soon after the raids, the PFI hit out at the multi-agencies led by the NIA, calling all claims “baseless and sensationalism” that are “solely aimed at creating an atmosphere of terror”. “Popular Front of India’s National Executive Council (NEC) has condemned the national wide raids by the NIA and ED and the unjust arrests and the harassments of its national and state leaders across India and the witch-hunting against the members, and supporters of the organization,” it said in a statement, adding, “…It will stand firm on its will for recovering the democratic system and spirit of the constitution of our beloved country”.
Formed in 2006 in Kerala and is headquartered in Delhi, the PFI claims to strive for a neo-social movement ostensibly for the empowerment of marginalised sections of India. It is, however, often accused by law enforcement agencies of promoting radical Islam.