Several senior leaders of the Popular Front of India (PFI), including its Chairman OMA Abdul Salam and National General Secretary Nassarudeen Elamaram, have been detained by central agencies. In a statement on Thursday evening, the National Investigation agency said it had officially arrested 45 members in connection with the raids.
Earlier in the day over 100 functionaries of the PFI and its political wing, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) were reportedly taken into custody by NIA.
According to an official statement of the NIA, searches were jointly conducted by the Enforcment Directorate (ED), NIA and the state police forces in 93 locations in 15 states of India.
The NIA said that the searches were conducted in connection with five cases initially registered at Nizamabad police station in Telangana against some 25 PFI cadres. “Case was registered after the Telangana police found that the accused were organizing camps for imparting training to commit violent and terrorist acts with the objective of promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion etc,” NIA said.
While 19 have been arrested from Kerala, 11 have been arrested from Tamil Nadu, 7 from Karnataka, 4 from Andhra Pradesh, 2 from Rajasthan, 1 each from Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.
Raids, protests across southern states
In an unprecedented and largescale crackdown on the PFI that began in the wee hours of Thursday, 22 September, the NIA, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and state police forces conducted searches at its offices and the residences of its leaders in 15 states, including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
Several senior functionaries of PFI, including its founder Prof P Koya, officer bearers E AbuBacker, E. M. Abdul Rahiman have been arrested from Kerala.
Heavy security was deployed in Mangaluru, where PFI supporters gathered and shouted slogans like “go back NIA”. Apart from Mangaluru police, Central Armed Reserve Police was deployed to keep the situation under control.
Similar protests were witnessed in Kerala’s Kozhikode as raids were underway at the PFI headquarters in the city and the homes of PFI and SDPI leaders.
PFI activists blocked the national highway in Kannur to mark their protest against the detention. They were detained later by the Kerala police.
PFI activists also protested outside the NIA office in Kochi. Security was strengthened outside the office.
In a coordinated operation in Guntur, the NIA had taken three PFI activists and one SDPI member into their custody in the early hours of Thursday.
Raids in Guntur
Those arrested by the NIA in Guntur were identified as Abdul Wahid Ali, expansion wing in charge of PFI, a member Sheik Zafrulla, Riyaz Ahmed a member of SDPI, and Abdul Rahim a former district in-charge of the organisation.
Sources in the local police who had assisted the NIA teams in Guntur said that the raids on the residences of PFI activists had begun around late evening on Wednesday and continued till the early hours of Thursday.
They had also broken open the PFI office in Auto Nagar and conducted searches. During the searches, it is learnt NIA teams recovered a few laptops and some incriminating documents and other material.
Raids in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka
In Tamil Nadu, NIA raids were reported on PFI and SDPI offices in Madurai, Cuddalore, Dindigul and Ramanathapuram. Homes, offices and properties belonging to PFI and SDPI office-bearers were being searched while some were also detained. A total of 11 people have been arrested from Tamil Nadu including M.Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Advocate Khalid Mohammed.
In Karnataka, NIA raids were reported from Mangaluru, Bengaluru, Koppal and Shivamogga, among other districts. Houses of the PFI leaders in Dakshin Kannada’s Bajpe, Jokatte, Kulai were also raided.
The residence of PFI National Secretary Anis Ahmed in Bengaluru was also searched along with Mohammed Shakib and Afsar Pasha, two leaders of the organisation. Seven members of the PFI were arrested from Karnataka.
PFI Zonal President Shaheed Nasir’s residence was raided in Shivamogga. Koppal District President Abdul Wahid Sait was arrested from Gangavati on Thursday.
Telangana, Andhra raids earlier this week
On 18 September, NIA conducted searches at multiple locations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in a case registered against PFI cadres in Nizamabad by Telangana Police on 4 July, which was later taken over by the NIA.
NIA conducted searches at 38 locations in Telangana (23 in Nizamabad, 4 in Hyderabad, seven in Jagityal, two in Nirmal, and one each in Adilabad and Karimnagar districts) and at two locations in Andhra Pradesh (one each in Kurnool and Nellore Districts) in the case relating to Abdul Khader — the main accused — of Nizamabad district, and 26 other persons.
NIA arrested four PFI members for allegedly organising training camps for terrorist activities and promoting enmity between different groups based on religion.
“The accused were organising camps for imparting training to commit terrorist acts and to promote enmity between different groups on the basis of religion,” NIA said in its press release, adding that four people were detained for questioning.
The raids against PFI comes barely five days after the organisation held a massive convention on 17 September at Kozhikode in Kerala.
(With inputs from Shilpa Nair, SNV Sudhir, PS Sreerag, Anusha Ravi Sood, Syed Umar Sharieef and Bellie Thomas)