A multitude of state and federal agencies led by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out raids against the Popular Front of India (PFI) across at least 10 states on Thursday.
Nearly 100 PFI activists were either arrested of detained during these raids carried by NIA, state police forces and their Anti-Terrorism Squads (ATS), and Enforcement Directorate (ED). While NIA and police forces are investigating criminal aspects, the ED is investigating the money trail on charges of terror funding.
The raids are taking place in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karantaka, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and the national capital Delhi.
The officials said the searches are taking place at the premises of persons involved in terror funding, organising training camps, and radicalising people to join proscribed organisations.
The near-simultaneous raids in 10 states and national capital Delhi have been described as the "largest-ever investigation process till date".The PFI in a statement, said, "The raids are taking place at the homes of national, state and local leaders of PFI. The state committee office is also being raided. We strongly protest the fascist regime's move to use agencies to silence dissenting voices."
The ED has been investigating the PFI's alleged "financial links" on charges of fuelling the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in the country, the Delhi riots that took place in February 2020, alleged conspiracy in UP's Hathras case of alleged gang-rape and death of a Dalit woman, and a few other instances.
How is PFI under the scanner?
The Popular Front of India was formed in 2006 in Kerala and is headquartered in Delhi.
The ED has filed two charge sheets against PFI and its office-bearers before a special PMLA court in Lucknow.
In February last year, the ED filed its first charge sheet against PFI and its student wing Campus Front of India (CFI) on money laundering charges, claiming its members wanted to "incite communal riots and spread terror" in the aftermath of the alleged Hathras gang-rape.
Those named in the charge sheet include K A Rauf Sherif, national general secretary of CFI and a member of PFI; Atikur Rahman, national treasurer of campus front of India (CFI); Masud Ahmed, Delhi-based general secretary of CFI; journalist "associated with PFI" Siddique Kappan and Mohammed Alam, another CFI/PFI member.
In the second charge sheet filed this year, the ED had claimed that a hotel based in the UAE hotel "served" as a money laundering front for the PFI.
Maharashtra: ATS arrests 20 PFI activists
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Thursday arrested 20 activists of the PFI from the state for allegedly indulging in unlawful activities promoting enmity among communities and waging a war against the country, an official said.
In Maharashtra, raids were conducted by ATS teams in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Aurangabad, Pune, Kolhapur, Beed, Parbhani, Nanded, Malegaon (in Nashik district) and Jalgaon, an official said, adding that important documents were also seized.
The ATS has registered four offences in Mumbai, Nashik, Aurangabad and Nanded under various Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections including 153-A (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 121A (conspiring to commit certain offences against the State) and 120B (criminal conspiracy), and provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The ATS officials were also making enquiries with some people in connection with these cases, said the official.
Madhya Pradesh: Four PFI members arrested, minister says matter 'serious'
Four PFI members were arrested in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, according to an official.
While a senior police official said that three PFI members were arrested from Indore, the police did not share details of the fourth person's arrest.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said it was a "serious" matter but did not share any further information as he called it a "confidential" affair.
On Thursday, raids were carried out by federal and state agencies in a near-simultaneous manner in 10 states. Nearly 100 people were arrested or detained.
"NIA is leading this nationwide operation. My ministry is totally aware of it, but as the matter is serious, we should maintain its secrecy," said Mishra.
(With PTI Inputs)