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On Thursday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted raids across ten states and arrested over 100 people linked to the Popular Front of India (PFI). The operation launched as an anti-terror exercise is said to be the "largest ever" search operation.
According to reports, the search operations were conducted to crack down against the people allegedly involved in terror funding, organising training camps, and radicalising people.
What is PFI?
Created in 2007, the organisation describes itself as the "organisation that fights for the rights of minorities, Dalits, and marginalised communities".
It was founded after merging three Muslim organisations in southern India, the National Democratic Front in Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity, and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu, according to Indian Express (IE).
According to IE, the organisation does not maintain a record of its members, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to press charges against them after arrests.
The organisation does not contest elections but carries on social and religious work among Muslims.
Entering politics, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) emerged from PFI in 2009. It raises political issues for Muslims, Dalits, and other marginalised communities. PFI provides ground workers to SDPI.
What is the controversy around PFI?
The party has been most visible in Kerala. There have been repeatedly accused of riots, murders, and having links with terrorist organisations in the state.
In 2012, then chief minister Oommen Chandy told the High Court that PFI is "nothing but a resurrection of the banned outfit SIMI".
The government also filed an affidavit saying that PFI workers were involved in 27 murder cases. Most of those killed were from RSS and CPM.
Later in 2014, Kerala BJP said there were growing instances of "religious terrorism" in the state.
"In the last six years, 24 BJP-RSS workers have been killed in Kerala, seven of them by the Popular Front of India," IE quoted K Surendran, then state BJP president, as saying.
In April 2022, A Subair, PFI president of Elappully, was killed outside a mosque. The police said that the killer's vehicle was registered under the name of S Sanjith, an RSS worker. Sanjith was killed in November 2021, allegedly by the workers of PFI and SDPI.
A day after Subair's death, SK Sreenivasan, another RSS worker, was hacked to death in Palakkad.
The administration deployed 300 police personnel in Palakkad to prevent further clashes.
How influential is SDPI politically?
SDPI has a large presence in Karnataka's Dakshina Kannada and Udipi regions. However, it has not been able to make a mark in the assembly or the Lok Sabha.
In the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the party won 1 per cent and 3 per cent votes, respectively.
However, Congress and BJP have often linked each other with PFI and SDPI.
BJP has repeatedly blamed the murders of party cadres, especially in Karnataka, on PFI. They even sought a ban on the party.
On the other hand, Congress allegedly struck a deal with SDPI in the 2018 Karnataka elections to withdraw candidates from the constituencies both parties contested.
In 2013, after coming to power, Congress's Siddaramaiah government dropped 176 cases filed against PFI by the previous BJP government, IE added.
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First Published: Thu, September 22 2022. 17:35 IST