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India bans Islamic group PFI

September 28, 2022

The Indian government called the Popular Front of India (PFI) an "unlawful association." This month, at least 200 PFI members have been detained.

Members of the Indian security personnel wait on the roads as they conducted raids at PFI offices across the country.
After detaining multiple PFI members, India banned the Islamic organization Image: Charu Kartikeya/DW

India on Wednesday banned the Islamic group Popular Front of India (PFI) and eight of its affiliates for five years. The government called the PFI an "unlawful association" and accused the group of terror-related activities.

In the past month, dozens of PFI offices have been raided and at least 200 PFI members were detained across India.

PFI has rejected the accusations and said authorities are fabricating evidence and targeting the group.

Indian government: PFI had 'international linkages' to terror groups

According to the Indian government, PFI has been funding terrorist activities, providing arms training to its supporters and radicalizing people for anti-India activities.

"PFI and its associates operated openly as a socio-economic, educational and political organization but they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalize a particular section of the society,'' read the notification issued by the government.

The government said the group has multiple "international linkages" with "global terrorist groups." Members of the PFI have been accused of joining the Islamic State and participating in "terror activites" in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The government notification also banned eight PFI-affiliated groups: Campus Front of India, Rehab India Foundation, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organization, National Women's Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala. 

The bans were invoked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which gives extraordinary powers to the government to deal with activities that attack the integrity and sovereignty of India. Under this law, UAPA undertrials can be designated as terrorists.

PFI called the ban an act of political vendetta

Mohammed Tahir, a counsel for the PFI said the government has failed to present any evidence of the group having received international funding for terror activities in India.

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), a group that works with PFI on certain issues but has not been included in the ban, accused the Indian government of "misusing the investigation agencies," using "laws to silence the opposition and to scare the people from expressing the voice of dissent."

The PFI came into existence in 2006 with the objective of countering Hindu nationalist groups.

In the last few years, the PFI has backed protests against the citizenship amendment law which many Muslims in India deemed discriminatory and supported the rights of Muslim women students to wear the hijab in their classrooms. 

Women students in India are seen protesting for their right to wear the hijab in the classroom.
PFI supported the rights of Muslim women students to wear the hijab in their classrooms.Image: Rupak De Chowdhuri/REUTERS

Previously, the group has also been accused of killing people associated with other religious organizations, supporting the Islamic State group and destruction of property.

Implications of the ban

Of India's nearly 1.4 billion people, about 14% are Muslims.

In the last few years, many Muslims in India have complained of being marginalized and attacked for their identity under the rule of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

The ban is likely to stir an outcry among opponents of the government, which retains broad public support and enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament.

ns/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)