More than 250 Popular Front of India (PFI) functionaries and people tied to it were rounded up Tuesday in sweeping police raids in Delhi and six states against the outfit, currently being probed by the NIA and ED for its alleged terrorist activities and terrorism-linked funding.
Raids by state police and their ATS units were conducted in MP, Gujarat, Karnataka, Assam, Delhi, Maharashtra, and UP. At least 101 members of PFI and its political arm, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), were detained in Karnataka alone during searches across 17 districts. In UP, 57 suspected PFI members were detained in 26 districts by teams of state police and NIA. Additional DGP (law and order) Prashant Kumar said: “We seized incriminating documents from those detained and their phones and laptops have been sent for forensic analysis.” Searches were done in Gonda, Kushinagar, Basti, Varanasi, Ghaziabad, Bahraich, Barabanki, Saharanpur, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat.
In Gujarat, as many as 15 people with PFI links were detained and questioned on Monday and Tuesday. PFI man quizzed over Maha chemist’s killing held by NIA
More than 250 Popular Front of India (PFI) functionaries and people tied to it were rounded up on Tuesday in sweeping police raids in several states. Police sources said at least 10 men associated with SDPI were held in Ahmedabad city. The number of detentions in Maharashtra was reported to be 35, including that of Sayyed Chowdhary, 52, the SDPI general secretary in Mumbai, for his alleged involvement in anti-national activities. A court sent him to judicial custody till October 6.
Police took into preventive custody 29 people across Marathwada, northern Maharashtra and Pune. All the six detained in Pune are PFI and SDPI office-bearers, while the 13 held in Aurangabad are from PFI’s physical education group, which holds yoga and martial arts training for its members. Authorities said they were detained to check if they were “holding physical fitness training with an ulterior motive”.
Four functionaries were held in Thane, while Amravati police placed PFI district president Sohail Anwar Abdul Qadir alias Sohail Nadvi, 38, in custody. He was questioned before by NIA for the murder of pharmacist Umesh Kolhe, who was fatally knifed by two men on June 21 reportedly for sharing posts supporting Nupur Sharma.
In Assam, 25 PFI members were arrested from eight districts, taking the total arrests in the state since last week to 36. “This is an ongoing operation…Our operations against PFI will be intensified now,” CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Last week, 11 members of the organisation, including its state president and secretary, along with its Bengal unit president, were arrested by Assam police that have been swooping down on the group since 2017. So far, 92 members have been arrested in 18 cases. MP ATS took 21 PFI activists into custody, nine of them from Indore and Ujjain. These arrests were made on the basis of information gleaned from laptops and mobile phones of the four senior PFI office-bearers arrested by NIA in the two cities five days ago. Home minister Narottam Mishra said: “Today’s action was taken by Madhya Pradesh police…in eight districts. Their laptops, computers and phones have been seized.”
The coordinated police crackdown is said to be an extension of the September 22 raids by central agencies NIA and ED in 11 states, described by officials as the “largest-ever” swoop on suspected home-grown terrorism by PFI, an outfit formed in 2006. More than 100 people were picked up then, triggering violent protests and backlashes in Kerala and Tamil Nadu
Karnataka police’s pre-dawn action on Tuesday sparked sporadic protests, but the situation is reported to be under control. CM Basavaraj Bommai said people were taken into custody as a “precautionary measure based on certain information”. “It is a pre-emptive move,” he said.
Abdul Majid Mysuru, state president of SDPI, called it a political vendetta. “Innocents have been targeted…We will legally fight BJP’s atrocities,” he said.
Though state BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel blamed former CM Siddaramaiah of Congress responsible for the growth of PFI in the state, the opposition party welcomed NIA’s crackdown on PFI. UT Khader, deputy leader of the opposition, said stringent action should be taken against those who foment trouble in society.
With inputs from Bengaluru, Mumbai, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Aurangabad, Nashik, Pune, Nagpur.