In News: Ministry of Home Affairs under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) raided premises of the Popular Front of India (PFI), arrested over a hundred of its leaders and banned the outfit for a period of five years.
- PFI is an Indian Muslim political organisation that engages in a radical and exclusivist style of Muslim minority politics. It was formed to counter Hindutva groups.
- It was founded in 2006 with the merger of the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) and the National Development Front (NDF) – a controversial organisation established in Kerala a few years after the Babri mosque was demolished in 1992.
- It describes itself “as a non-governmental social organisation whose stated objective is to work for the poor and disadvantaged people in the country and to oppose oppression and exploitation”
- At present, the PFI, which has a strong presence in Kerala and Karnataka, is active in more than 20 Indian states and says its cadre strength is in the “hundreds of thousands”.
- It advocates for Muslim reservations.
- In 2012, the organisation conducted protests against alleged use of the UAPA law to detain innocent citizens.
- PFI has often been in violent clashes with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in parts of Kerala and Karnataka – Activists have been found with lethal weapons, bombs, gunpowder, swords by the authorities.
- The organisation has various wings – National Women’s Front (NWF) and the Campus Front of India (CFI) which have also been banned.
- The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), founded in 2009, is a registered political party and active in electoral politics — it has a few hundred representatives in local bodies, mostly in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It is regarded as the political wing of PFI.
- Even though the PFI and SDPI have separate leaderships, their cadres overlap and they share a political vision.
- It represents a militant strand of political Islam that draws money, material, cadre by exploiting the resentment and fear among a section of the Muslim minority amid the rise of majoritarian agendas. That is a political challenge
- The PFI first stepped into the limelight in 2010 after an attack on a college professor in Kerala accusing him of asking derogatory questions about the Prophet Muhammad.
- Karnataka’s government has accused the PFI of instigating protests against “hijab” ban.
- More recently, members from the group were also linked to the beheading of a Hindu man in the western state of Rajasthan in June 2022.
- The impression has also gained ground among sections of the community that many mainstream secular parties are more interested in patronising the minority as a vote bank than standing up for their Constitutional guarantees.
- PFI leaders get a lot of media attention for speeches which some consider to be provocative.
- The group claims to have a large supporter-base, but SDPI hasn’t won any parliamentary seats.
- Its influence it has is mainly limited to Kerala and some other southern states
Causes of the ban:
- Investigating agencies claim to have unearthed unaccounted funds and linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) and the Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
- The role of PFI cadres in unleashing violence, including killings, to further their agenda is well-documented.
- The PFI and SDPI, the electoral arm of the PFI, have exploited distrust and disillusionment to push their ideological footprint.
- As per MHA notification, the PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts operate openly as socio-economic, educational and political organisation but they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalise a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country.
- Shutting down PFI’s funding network and arresting their leaders may help to counter the security challenge posed by the outfit.
- It will require mainstream parties to confront the increasing relegation of Muslims in public life, and call out rights abuses by state agencies — for instance, the often opaque and extended incarceration of Muslim youth under laws like the UAPA.
- But a ban may only force cadres underground. It cannot be — it should not be — the whole response to the gauntlet thrown down, in a diverse democracy, by an outfit like the PFI. What follows the ban, how the state goes about due process while implementing it, will frame the challenges that lie ahead.
Scope of UAPA:
- Power to prohibit the use of funds of an unlawful association
- Power to notify places used for the purpose of an unlawful association
- Penalty for being a member of an unlawful association
- Terrorist activities including forfeiture of proceeds of terrorism
- Power to punish for raising funds for a terrorist act, organising terrorist camps, harbouring, conspiracy, threatening witness, etc.
- Denotification of terrorist organisations
- Impounding of passport and arms license
- Cognizance of offenses
- Procedure to arrest, seizure, etc.
Source: Indian Express