India bans Islamic group PFI for terrorism
India on Wednesday declared the Popular Front of India (PFI) Islamic group and its affiliates unlawful.
India accused the group of involvement in “terrorism’’ and ban them for five years, after authorities detained more than 100 PFI members in September.
The PFI did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment but its now-banned student wing, the Campus Front of India (CFI), called the government action a political vendetta and propaganda.
“We are against the concept of a Hindu nation, we are against fascism, not India,’’ Imran P.J., national secretary of the CFI, told Reuters. “We will overcome this challenge. We will revive our ideology after five years. We will also consider going to court against the ban.’’
Earlier on Tuesday, the PFI denied accusations of violence and anti-national activities when their office was raided and dozens of its members were detained in various states.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in announcing the ban, said in a statement that PFI and its affiliates had “been found to be involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up.’’
However, Mr Imran denied any involvement in terrorism.
Muslims account for 13 per cent 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.
Meanwhile, Mr Modi’s party has denied accusations of discrimination against Muslims and points to data that all Indians irrespective of religion are benefiting from the government 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 ban is likely to stir an outcry among opponents of the government, which retains broad public support and a comfortable majority in parliament eight years after Modi first became prime minister.
The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which works with the PFI on some issues but was not included in the ban, said the government had struck a blow against democracy and human rights.
“Freedom of speech, protests and organisations have been ruthlessly suppressed by the regime against the basic principles of the Indian constitution,” the SDPI said in a statement.
It added, “The regime is misusing the investigation agencies and laws to silence the opposition and to scare the people from expressing the voice of dissent. An undeclared emergency is clearly visible in the country.’’
The government said in a notification it had banned the PFI and affiliates CFI, Rehab India Foundation, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.
Mr Imran said the government had provided no proof to back up the accusation that PFI were involved in terrorism or working alongside Islamic State.
India has been the victim of some major militant attacks over the past two decades, most linked to Islamists based in neighbouring Pakistan.
The PFI came together in late 2006 and was launched formally in 2007 with the merger of three organisations based in south India.
It calls itself a “social movement striving for total empowerment’’ on its website.
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