India bans Islamic group PFI after detentions, raids

  • World
  • Wednesday, 28 Sep 2022

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India declared Islamic group the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its affiliates unlawful associations on Wednesday and banned them for five years, after authorities detained more than 100 PFI members this month.

The group's office number listed on its website was out of service and it did not immediately respond to a an email seeking comment. On Tuesday, it denied accusations of violence and anti-national activities when its offices were raided and dozens of members detained in various states.

"The Popular Front of India and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been found to be involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up of the country, disturbing public order etc which are prejudicial to the integrity, security and sovereignty of the country," the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement.

Muslims account for 13% of India's 1.4 billion people and many have complained of marginalisation under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi's party denies the accusations and points to data that all Indians irrespective of religion are benefiting from the government's focus on economic development and social welfare.

The PFI has supported causes like protests against a 2019 citizenship law that many Muslims deem discriminatory, as well as protests in the southern state of Karnataka this year demanding the right for Muslim women students to wear the hijab in class.

The government said in a notification it had banned the PFI and affiliates Rehab India Foundation, Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.

The government said it found a "number of instances of international linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups", adding that some of its members had joined Islamic State and participated in "terror activities" in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The PFI came together in late 2006 and was launched formally the next year three organisations based in south India merged.

It calls itself a "social movement striving for total empowerment" on its website.

(Reporting by Akriti Sharma and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru and Krishna N. Das in New Delhi; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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