Over three three months after a nationwide crackdown arresting its leaders and sealing offices, the banned Islamic organisation Popular Front of India (PFI) is back in the news, with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raiding the residences of most of its leaders in Kerala.
According to NIA sources, the crackdown began early in the morning on Thursday, 29 December, in houses located in 56 different places in Kerala.
The houses are in Malappuram, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam, and Alappuzha districts.
Officials said the raids are being conducted in the backdrop of reports that the banned outfit is continuing its operations clandestinely, with leaders and cadres who were not arrested as part of the crackdown in September and October holding secret meetiing.
Related: All about the PFI and why it was banned
Ernakulam, Alappuzha raids key
NIA is in particular investigating Periyar Valley village in Ernakulam district, where a secret meeting of the banned outfit allegedly took place recently. It also has information on secret meetings and a regrouping of cadres in other parts of the state.
The agency has conducted raids at eight locations in Ernakulam, four places each in Alappuzha and Malappuram, and three places in Thiruvananthapuram, and reportedly seized incriminating evidence.
NIA sources said that there was a particular focus on the raids at Chinthoor, Vandanam, Veeyapuram and Ochira in Alappuzha, and Edavanad, Aluva, and Vypin areas in Ernakulam district.
In September, the Union government banned the Islamic outfit and its feeders for five years under the provisions of the stringent anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The order banning PFI and eight of its associates had accused the Islamic outfit of maintaining “links” with global terror groups such as ISIS and trying to unleash communal hatred in the country.
The ban was enforced after a crackdown on the outfit across the country.
Related: Court denies house arrest for PFI leader E Abubacker
Eight PFI associates were banned
The eight PFI associates that were banned were: Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, Rehab India Foundation, Junior Front, National Women’s Front, Empower India Foundation, Rehab Foundation, and National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation.
They were also placed on the list of organisations banned under the UAPA, as per a gazette notification issued at that time.
However, PFI’s political arm the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) has not yet been banned.
After the order was issued, the state government sealed the offices of PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts in Kerala, and their bank accounts were frozen.
At present, 270 PFI leaders are behind bars.