PFI: A Dire Threat to National Security

Before the PFI could pose a real threat on ground, the entire conspiracy has been demolished by the NIA & ED

India, a secular and democratic country is known for its Ganga Jamuni tehjeeb and the syncretic culture. Being home to the third largest Muslim population of the world, India has the history of harmonious co-existence of people from diverse religions for ages. All the communities including Muslims have been enjoying the rights enshrined in the Constitution and facilities provided by the Government.

In recent years, the peaceful atmosphere of the country had been threatened by a radical organisation namely Popular Front of India (PFI), The PFI, having presence in 17 States, had been indulging in disturbing communal and secular fabric of the country. It was posing a grave threat to the national security by advancing its radical ideology and calling for establishment of political Islam in India.

A radical organisation

 The Popular Front of India is a potent radical Muslim organisation, whose members have been consistently involving themselves in violence, crime and anti-national activities in several parts of the country. Since its inception in 2006, the PFI encourages its cadres to undertake actions that are prejudicial to the maintenance of peace and harmony between different religious groups, and disrupt secular fabric of the country.

he PFI came into existence on December 9, 2006.Three south Indian Muslim fundamentalist outfits, namely the National Development Front/NDF, Kerala; the Karnataka Forum for Dignity/KFD, Karnataka; and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai/MNP, Tamil Nadu, rechristened the ‘South India Council’ (a Bangalore based organisation floated by NDF in 2004) as the ‘Popular Front of India’.

One of the constituent organisation of PFI, the NDF was formed in 1993 in Kerala to form ‘resistance groups’ to meet the ‘challenge from the Sangh Parivar’. The KFD, though formed (2005) for the claimed objective of upliftment of Muslims, indoctrinated its members to undertake ‘Jehad’ for the cause of Islam. Training was imparted to them in martial arts, use of lathis and unarmed combat, apart from ideological indoctrination. The MNP, which was formed (2001) under the name of ‘National Defence Force’ by M. Ghulam Mohammed in 1999, was aimed at preparing Muslim youth to retaliate attacks on Muslims by Hindus and any attempt to denigrate Islam.

The PFI was expected to grow on the pattern of the NDF, the most dominant of its constituents. It aimed to have uniformed cadres trained in martial arts and defensive/offensive tactics, and form ‘Action Squads’ to take ‘revenge’ from the ‘enemy’. Overtly, socio-economic issues were raised for involving Muslims at the grassroots level and the secular name (Popular Front) to camouflage its real intentions to radicalise the Muslim population. The PFI’s constitution stated the objective of working for issues pertaining to Muslims, Dalits and Backward sections; a ‘movement’ for realisation of a society in which freedom, justice, and security were equally enjoyed by all individuals and classes. It hides the actual objective, that was to communalize the Indian society, radicalise Muslims and target those who oppose its hidden agendas.

Several members of PFI, including its top leadership, had been active members of SIMI. To name a few, EM Abdul Rahiman (former Chairman), E Abubacker (Member, National Executive Council/NEC) and P Koya (Member, NEC) were members of the SIMI.  The predecessor of PFI in Kerala, i.e. National Development Fund, was established by former SIMI leaders. SIMI was banned in 2001 under the UAPA for anti-national activities.

The PFI had a well-structured organisational set-up at the national, state and local levels, and runs several offices. The National Executive Council (NEC),its supreme decision making body of 13 members, was headed by the Chairman OMA Salam.  A bigger body, the National General Assembly (NGA),had representatives from each State. It operates through multiple front organisations. The top leadership of the outfit remained dominated by leaders from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In their oath of allegiance, the PFI cadres swear to sacrifice their lives for the creation of Allah’s rule (Shariah) and for the interest of the organisation. This oath was administered to the cadre only when hewas judged to have been suitably radicalised for the outfit.

Violent indoctrination of PFI cadres

In their oath of allegiance, PFI cadres swear to sacrifice themselves for the creation of Allah’s rule (Shariah) and for the interest of the organisation. This oath was administered only when the cadre was judged suitably radicalised for the outfit. PFI recruits were radicalised by display of selective video clippings on emotive issues like Babri Masjid demolition, communal riots in Gujarat and other parts of the country, aimed at instilling a sense of ‘Muslim persecution’ and distrust against the State as well as other communities.

Furthermore, adept cadres were selected for advance modules like riot courses, weapon handling, etc., and form part of ‘Hit Squads’ or ‘Service Teams’ maintained by the organization. During interrogation by the ED (December 2020), Rauf Sharief (former General Secretary, CFI), had revealed that PFI runs a secret relief wing, which actually plans and executes revenge attacks on selected RSS leaders.

PFI had been running a Physical Education department to train selected cadres, who provide security to its leaders and some of them are also included in the hit squad. Identified cadres are motivated to undergo training ranging from defensive techniques, counter-attacks, use of swords, knives and crude bombs, etc.

Involvement in violent activities

The PFI has a violent history. Over 1400 criminal cases had been registered against cadres of the PFI and its affiliates across the country including the UAPA, the Explosive Substances Act, Arms Act and other sections of the IPC. The PFI covertly organises training exercises, military like drills, wherein participants are trained to use criminal force and violence against certain religious groups, which are perceived as enemy of Islam. Since inception, resistance against Hindu organisations /leaders remain the main plank on the agenda of the PFI. The outfit has a secretive hit squad that engage in targeted killing of Hindu activists and those allegedly indulging in blasphemy.

The PFI has often claimed to be a social organisation working for the upliftment of India Muslim community. On the contrary, the ground actions of PFI tell a totally different story. The recent (July 26) murder of Praveen Nettaru in Bellare town once again exposed the violent character of PFI. Praveen Nettaru, amember of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha and a local businessman, was hacked to death in typical ISIS style by bike-borne assailants. Most of the accused in the Praveen Nettaru case had affiliation with the PFI.

The investigation by local police revealed a chilling tale of cold-blooded murder by PFI cadres. The murder was planned by the PFI and SDPI members in retaliation to the murder (July 21) of Masood, a Muslim migrant labourer. A list of RSS and Bajrang Dal members of the town were prepared and few were selected to avenge Masood’s death. Praveen was selected as he had commented on the Halal issue recently.

Some of the accused were members of PFI’s secret ‘Service Team’, similar to the ‘Hit Squads’.  Members of this team provide security to senior PFI leaders and also kept track of Hindu leaders in their areas. The ‘Service Wing’ of the PFI was responsible for planning action on Hindu activists. It provided financial and legal support to all such cadres, if embroiled in cases. The case had been handed over to the NIA.  During raids (September 6), NIA recovered documents related to PFI/SDPI/Campus Front of India (student wing of PFI), some improvised weapons (sharp-edged concealed knives and 1 machete) and few used 12 bore cartridges of a licensed weapon, besides electronic items.

Busting (July 4) of a clandestine physical training centre in Telanganaalso, was another recent example of true violent nature of the PFI. One PFI Physical education instructor, Abdul Khader, had trained more than 200 PFI cadres in his martial art training centre in Nizamabad. The Police (PS Nizamabad Town VI) had registered a case under various sections of the IPC and UAPA against 27 persons. The recoveries made from the site included bamboo sticks and nunchakus.

Interrogation of the accused revealed that the PFI would identify Muslim youth, from poor or middle class background, for physical training. They were also inculcated with anti-Hindutva ideology. These cadres were trained in handling knife, sword, rods and how to attack specific body parts to inflict maximum damage.  The training involved use of swords and nun-chucks. The PFI had been trying hard to make inroads into Telangana to increase its cadre base and was undertaking social programmes like distributing school books and food to the poor. The NIA was handed over the case on August 25.

In Bihar, the Police had raided (July 11) a house in Patna following an input regarding gathering of some suspected persons at his house. A case under various sections of IPC against 26 accused, which included two national-level leaders of PFI, was registered. Three PFI/SDPI leaders had been arrested in the case. During the raids, the Police had recovered some incriminating documents including a booklet named ‘India 2047-Towards rule of Islam in India’. The document maintained that Islamic rule should be established in India. It talked about training members in ‘attacking and defensive techniques, use of swords, rods and other weapons’. Some should be chosen for training in firearms and explosives. The case was presently with the NIA.

Numerous other instances highlight the aggressive nature of the PFI. In Kerala, last year (November 15, 2021), an RSS worker (Sanjith) was murdered by cadres of the PFI. In Tamil Nadu, the PFI cadres killed V Ramalingam (a Hindu leader) for challenging its Dawah activities in 2019. Other prominent cases of murder of Hindutva leaders by the cadres of the outfit include Nandu (Kerala, 2021), Abhimanyu (Kerala, 2018), Bibin (Kerala, 2017), Sharath (Karnataka, 2017), R Rudresh (Karnataka, 2016), Praveen Poojari (Karnataka, 2016) and Sasi Kumar (Tamil Nadu, 2016).

Such activities create fear and feeling of terror among members of other religious communities, besides the public. For instance, its cadres had brutally chopped hand of a Professor (TJ Joseph) for alleged blasphemy in 2010. Active involvement of the PFI/SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India, political wing of PFI) cadres came to notice during investigation of the Bengaluru riots-2020. The NIA investigated two related cases and among the charge-sheeted accused, 47 belonged to PFI/SDPI.

Seizure of explosives from PFI

In June 2021, in Kerala, explosives and Jihadi literature were recovered from Padam forest area (district Kollam), which was a military training site of PFI. On February 16, 2021, the UP STF had arrested Anshad Badruddin (National Coordinator of PFI’s Physical Education Division), who was carrying explosives with detonators. Later, on March 13, Mohammad Rashid Ahmed (Physical Education Master, Maharashtra) was also arrested by the STF. Their sustained interrogation revealed the secret internal functioning of the PFI and its nefarious activities. Earlier, Kerala Police had recovered (April 2013) arms and explosive materials from arms training site in Narath (district Kannur). The case was investigated by the NIA and 41 PFI cadres were convicted (2016).

Involvement in protest against the Government

The PFI was continuously involved in anti-Government propaganda and spreading the narrative that Muslims were being persecuted in India.The social media accounts of outfit’s senior leaders were being followed by international organisations that often critic policies of Indian Government, such as, the Indian American Muslim Council.

PFI had taken a lead in organising anti-CAA protests during December 2019-March 2020. In Uttar Pradesh, 51 cases for holding violent agitations against the CAA were registered. The PFI-led platform, Samvidhan Suraksha Andolan, was among the prominent common platforms which coordinated the anti-CAA agitations. Through active involvement in the protests, the PFI was able to project itself as a prominent Muslim organisation capable of safeguarding interests of the Muslim community. By projecting itself as champion of Muslim causes, the PFI had been successful in attracting new members over the years. Its role in Delhi riots was investigated by the ED.

PFI’s Pan-Islamic links

There had been a number of instances of international linkages of PFI with Global Terrorist Groups. Some activists of PFI, particularly from Kerala, had joined ISIS and had participated in terror activities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, which was the outcome of continuous radicalisation of its cadres. Further, PFI had linkages with Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh. Some of these PFI elements had been arrested by NIA and State Police and were investigated under UAPA.

The PFI draws inspiration from the Muslim Brotherhood and had observed August 30 as ‘Solidarity Day’ (when Muslim Brotherhood Government led by Mohammed Morsi was ousted in Egypt in 2013). PFI’s linkages with Muslim Brotherhood was further established by a Tweet in support of Muslim Brotherhood by Anis Ahmed (General Secretary, PFI) in June 2019. Connection of PFI with Hamas was established through various tweets by its General Secretary and other cadres openly praising Hamas.

Separately, 21 persons, having linkages with the PFI, had joined the ISIS.  Some AQIS training videos, depicting gruesome murders, were recovered from the PFI cadre accused in TJ Joseph hand chopping case-2010.

The PFI maintains Pan-Islamic links with Turkey-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), an Al-Qaeda-linked Turkish charity and affiliated with Intelligence agency of Turkey. Its top leaders had visited Turkey in 2018 and 2019 to attend programmes related to Palestine. In 2020, the PFI had organised a programme (online) for its cadres on ‘Modern Turkey’s Return to Islam’, wherein it praised Turkey’s President Erdogan for bringing true Islamic rule to Turkey.

PFI’s radical activities had attracted the attention of an international radical outfit namely, the Party of Islamic Renewal. In April, the outfit had sent an online letter to PFI on the Twitter, praising its activities and urging it to organise a ‘Revolutionary Army’ for Jihad against the Indian Government. The account is ran by Mohammad al-Mass’ari, an exiled Saudi national living in UK on asylum, was a former member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir.The tweet had also tagged the Sufi Islamic Board, a Sufi organisation, and threatened it for opposing PFI. Pertinently, PFI had been targeting leaders of the Sufi Islamic Board, who were campaigning constantly for a ban on the PFI.

PFI’s false claim as a charitable organisation

The PFI poses itself as a charitable organisation working for social justice for the backward and minority communities. To showcase itself as a charitable organisation, the PFI publicises its association with Police and Revenue officials.However, PFI covertly works to increase radicalisation among the Indian Muslim community by promoting a sense of insecurity among Muslims, thereby increasing polarisation in the Indian society and only PFI could protect the country and Islam from Hindus.

 Dubious Funding

The outfit receives dubious funding from within the country as well as from abroad. PFI and its affiliates maintain large number of bank accounts and receive money through its well-wishers/financers based in India and abroad. It also collects Zakat (donations) from its wealthy supporters. Investigating its finances, the CBDT had observed that its activities were not genuine. The source of deposits with respect to 36 bank accounts, out of 85 bank accounts of PFI, were not supported by the financial profile of the account holders, besides activities of PFI were not being carried out as per the objects of the Trust. The CBDT, subsequently, withdrew/cancelled registration granted to PFI and cancelled (March 30, 2021) tax exemptions of the Rehab India Foundation (NGO run by PFI).

The ED had raided several office premises and residences of PFI leaders, in the year 2020 and 2021, for suspected money laundering and arrested PFI leaders. It was revealed during investigations that the PFI had created a very well organised structure in Gulf countries for raising of funds and the collected fund was sent to India through Hawala.   It was found that PFI was operating money laundering fronts overseas, which included Munnar Villa Vista project in Kerala and Darbar restaurant in Abu Dhabi.  In Munnar Villa vista project, lakhs of unaccounted cash were infused and some benami shareholders of this project were located in UAE, who later transferred the shares to PFI leaders. The PFI was parking its illegally raised funds in this project so as to use it as and when required.

Investigation by the ED had also revealed that Anshad Badruddin (PFI, arrested by UP ATS in Lucknow in February 2021 with arms and explosives) had received funds of more than Rs. 3 lakh from PFI (during 2018 to 2021) for criminal activities. Therefore, huge cash deposits in the bank accounts by individuals beyond their known sources of income indicated the possibility of PFI and its associates indulging in money laundering and using the illegal funds for criminal, anti-national and anti-Government activities.

 Zakat money goes in wrong hand

PFI’s accountant during investigation, in the aftermath of Delhi riots, revealed that PFI’s headquarters at Shaheen Bagh, Delhi kept crores of unaccounted money, which they use without any accountability. Many cases of Hawala money transactions were being investigated by various law enforcement agencies against PFI. Any rough calculation on amount of money donated by Indian Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan would reveal that hundreds of crores were collected as Zakat money every year. The donors from the Muslim community should be aware that their hard earned money was being used by organizations like PFI.

 International Financial Footprints of Popular front of India

While investigating the foreign funding trail of PFI, the ED found that PFI had formed District Executive committees in various gulf countries including United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

The India Fraternity Forum (IFF) and Indian Social Forum (ISF) were PFI’s overseas fronts and were to politically engage the expatriate Muslims to conform to their ideology and organise funds for activities of PFI in India. Their executive committees were responsible for sending money to PFI in India without leaving any trail. Funds were generally collected in cash and remitted to India either through Hawala channels (covertly) or camouflaged as remittances by sending it to the accounts of India based relatives and friends of PFI’s members and sympathisers working abroad. The IFF had emerged as the most important conduit for raising funds from Indian Muslim expatriates in the Gulf.

Misleading the Muslims and the views of Ulema on Popular Front of India

During a conference at Hubli, Karnataka (December, 2021), Maulana Mohammad Rahmani was asked if the Popular Front of India (PFI) members are working on the path of Sahabas (companions of Prophet). Maulana Rahmani, President of AbulKalam Azad Islamic Awakening Centre and Imam of Rahmani Masjid Zakir Nagar, Delhi, remarked that PFI was a political organisation, which was associated with people whose forefathers used to denigrate and abuse Sahabas. With full authority and in the light of Quran and Hadees, Maulana Rahmani said that PFI does not work on Islamic beliefs/faith. Their belief system included dangerous anomalies and were closer to the Khawarij methodology.

Maulana Rahmani averred that traits of “rebellion against the existing ruler” can be easily found within the organisation. He mentioned three distinct aspects related to PFI: Khawarij Methodology, IkhwanulMuslimin and Jamaat-e-Islami. All the three aspects have proved disastrous for Islam in the past, especially for the youths.

In Karnataka, PFI had made an effort to reach out to local Muslim leadership, which was generally averse to activities of PFI. Ulema leaders had stated that the Hijab issue was counter-productive and criticised PFI for exploiting the social media for its own gains. They alleged that activities of PFI gave an impression to the Muslim community that the Ulema leaders were not working for the community.

The Hijab issue, which took a communally divisive turn, was blown out of proportion by the CFI. Two Muslim students (Aliya Assadi and MuskanZainab), who were among school students demanding wearing of Hijab, were told to orchestrate the controversy in Karnataka. The two girls had close ties with PFI and CFI earlier through their families. The issue picked up steam after it was flagged by the CFI in social media. The controversy orchestrated with the help of Muslim girls was a very well thought out agenda to rake up communal issues across the country by radical Islamic outfits like PFI and its fronts.

Misuse of Islamic Bayah System by Radical Organisations like PFI

The PFI had been demanding Bayah from Indian Muslims. But, they don’t fall in the category of scholars and people of virtue for giving Bayah. PFI’s step needs to be examined from Islamic perspective. First, the leaders of PFI certainly do not qualify to be the leaders of Muslims. The PFIwas a politically motivated violent organisation with reach among a handful of people. Their leaders instead of presenting themselves as role models had been involved in various scandals. OMA Salam,PFI Chairman, was currently under suspension for violating the Kerala State Service rules, while its youth wing leader, Rauf Sharief, was undergoing trial for inciting communal sentiments among a section of populace. Some other leaders were involved in a range of cases from money laundering to murders. A look at the life of Prophet would prove beyond doubt that the PFI leaders were miles away from claiming leadership of Muslims.

The Trojan Horse trying to destroy India from within

The PFI was recently in news for brainwashing Muslim children against non-Muslims and for trying to destabilise the delicate secular balance of India. PFI has always been in news for all the wrong reasons which included money laundering, political killings, illegal religious conversions, hand chopping on concocted blasphemy charges, etc.

The result of communal indoctrination by PFI was reflected in a slogan, raised by ten years old (son of a PFI member), in a PFI’s rally in Alappuzha district in Keralaon May 21. The slogan threatened Hindus and Christians with dire consequences, if they failed to live decently in Kerala. In this regard, the Kerala High Court had ordered (May 27) Kerala Government to take appropriate action against those responsible for a ten-year old child raising such provocative slogans.

 A banned organisation in Jharkhand

The Government of Jharkhand had banned PFI on the ground of its involvement in disrupting law and order, public peace, promoting communal hatred and fundamentalism, indulgence in anti-national activities and maintaining links with other terrorist organisations.

Many States have raised concern over sinister design of PFI and challenges posed with regard to law and order. They have a considered view that if unlawful activities of PFI were not controlled immediately, it would disturb communal harmony and ultimately harm integrity and security of the country.