There is a growing demand for the ban of Popular Front of India. What are the roots of this network organisation? How is it vitiating the social and communal atmosphere in the country?
A crescendo of ‘Ban PFI (Popular Front of India)’ demand is gaining momentum in the Southern States for the obvious reasons. In many of the recent communal issues reported in the states like, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, either it was a party or its involvement was palpable. The credible information about the clandestine activities of PFI indicates that it is a threat to the security and integrity of the country. But the attitude of the State Governments and police towards this group is elusive, most evidently due to the appeasement politics. In fact, this indifferent attitude of governments and a growing sense of insecurity among the general public is the real reason behind the call for ‘Ban PFI’ demand.
It seems a quick check of facts pertaining to PFI would help us to understand the demand more precisely. Most of the founding members of PFI were activists of banned extremist outfit Student Islamic Organisation (SIMI). A prominent leader of PFI, and SDPI its political wing Prof. P. Koya was also a founding member of SIMI. The groups of people formed PFI are also were the founding members of National Development Front (NDF) which merged with some other organisations to float PFI in 2006.
The NDF was infamous for vitiating the communal atmosphere of Kerala and terrorising and killing innocent people. Kerala saw the real face of NDF in 2002 when it perpetrated the massacre of 8 Hindu fishermen at Marad beach of Calicut district. Justice Thomas P Joseph Commission, a judicial inquiry commission appointed to investigate the massacre, found numerous incriminating evidence against NDF. The police officers deposed in front of the commission, referred to various confidential reports. According to them, Iran and ISI of Pakistan were the money sponsoring agencies of NDF. They imparted weapons training for selected members of the organisation. They also sent selected members to countries like Pakistan for training in arms and other guerrilla warfare. Many NDF cadres were involved in cases affecting communal harmony and peace. They used their ambulance service to smuggle arms and other necessary means. Not only Marad massacre and numerous targeted killings, NDF was also involved in various other extremist activities. In August 2001, a bomb went off in Green Valley Foundation, managed by NDF leaders in Manjeri, Malappuram district. The police officers who investigated the incident was of the opinion that it was an experiment to explode a bomb with remote control devise. In 2007, the NDF-PFI cadres were arrested for attacking the Kottakkal police station.
Its style of operations was mysterious. NDF established various frontal organisations to leverage the real agenda. According to reliable sources, NDF operated in two groups; one group worked overtly and organised seminars and various other programmes in the name of Human Rights, Dalit Rights etc. to divert the attention. The other group worked clandestinely and indulged in various extremist and terrorist activities. They successfully developed and used a new kind of organised and targeted attacking module. According to the module, the planning of attack, intelligence gathering, actual implementation of act etc. were carried out in a highly decentralised manner. The groups involved in such operations were not aware of the identity of other groups involved in it. Another strategy was using people from distant districts or neighbouring states for attacks. It literally created problems for law enforcing agencies in identifying the culprits and establishing the link among them and the events leading to the crime.
To garner support for their activities, the strategy of NDF was infiltration. Initially, they infiltrated into the committees of masjids and slowly captured it. They successfully implemented this model in various places. Once established their control, they used it to implement their version of Islamic law in the area. The use of social ostracism, criminal intimidation, attacks and even arson etc. against the Muslims was part of strategy to gain control over their own community. The liberals of the community were also targeted severely. Socially boycotting Muslim women for marrying persons from other faith, attacking and killing people of other religions for allegedly maintaining liaison with Muslim women, forcibly shutting down hotels run by Hindus during Ramadan etc. were other activities and strategies of NDF. In fact, the members of NDF also infiltrated into the major political parties in the state.
PFI, the reincarnation of NDF, also imbibed the traits and strategies of NDF and started practising it more severely and precisely. The historical experiences and geographical expansion opened more avenues for experimenting their strategies and tactics. According to sources, apart from the targeted killings (Jihad), they organised conversion by allurement (Love Jihad), targeted purchasing of properties and land belonging to the people of other communities (Land Jihad), propaganda using fake ID’s, hate content circulation, religious orientation using ICT (Cyber Jihad) etc. are some of the covert activities of PFI.
According to PFI, they have units in 23 states in the country. Though, it is a pan India organisation now, the epicentre of its activities is Kerala. Like NDF the name of PFI also surfaced in various kinds of extremist, subversive activities across the country. For example, the name PFI was discussed in connection with various bomb blasts. According to police, Tadiyantavide Nasir, a LeT militant arrested for terror recruitment and on various other charges, has been given shelter by PFI in its Ernakulum office. The Kerala police also charged PFI with various crimes like arms training, hate campaigns, possessing literature and CD’s of hate and anti-national content etc. E K Nayanar, a communist leader and former Chief Minister Kerala had informed the Assembly that NDF was involved in extremist and anti-national activities. V S Achuthanandan, another communist leader and another former Chief Minister, had stated on record that the intention of PFI was nothing but establishing a Muslim dominated State in Kerala within 20 years. PFI is all set to achieve its agenda. The attack against Prof. T J Joseph for allegedly reproducing certain remarks about Prophet Mohammad in a question paper is a testimony. The PFI activist chopped his hand off. In 2012, two ABVP leaders were butchered by PFI and Campus Front of India (CFI) activists in broad daylight. Vishal was stabbed to death in Chengannur, Christian College, while Sachin Gopal was hacked in front of Pallikunnu School in Kannur district. In the same year Government of Kerala, informed the High Court that the PFI is inimical to the safety and Security of the country. The following year police raided PFI centres across North Kerala and seized various kinds of arms and ammunitions along with foreign currency and rubber dummies of human beings that were used as shooting targets. Another phenomenon reported related to PFI was hacking of dogs. Hundreds of such cases were reported from North Kerala. In the opinion of police, it was part of a training programme and they constituted a special team to investigate it. In 2007, a huge cache of weapons and the Holy Quran were discovered by customs in Cochin from a Karachi bound ship, the ship containment was meant for one Koya of Trichur district. The name of NDF-PFI was also discussed in connection with this case.
As mentioned above Kerala based leadership is the brain behind most of the operations across the country. They provide all sorts of support for operations. The activities of PFI in Karnataka are an example of it. In the Shimoga violence of 2015, many PFI activists from Kerala were reportedly involved. Two Hindus were killed in the arson and attacks. Following year an RSS worker J Ravi was stabbed to death in Mysore. In this case also the involvement of PFI Kerala leaders were apparently discussed. During Tipu- Jayanti VHP worker Kuttappa got killed in Madikeri, Kodagu district. In this case also PFI activists were accused as assailants and the Kerala connection surfaced in this case also. Apart from these cases in many other criminal cases also PFI and its collaborator Karnataka Forum for Dignity were part. KFD workers were arrested in connection with the abduction and murder of two boys in Mysore for ransom. In 2016 RSS worker R Rudresh was murdered in Bangalore, here also the culprits under scanner were PFI activists. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), in this case, said in its charge sheet that, none of the accused had any personal enmity with the victim. It was a deliberate attempt to create fear and panic among Hindus.
Not only in the Southern States but also in the North and North-Eastern part of the country they have established their foothold. In Assam, they have connections with the local political outfit AUDF. According to sources after the introduction of the PFI into the state the activities extremist elements become more organised and subtle. In 2012 after riots in Assam, a series of hate messages targeting North-East people was circulated across the country, Pakistan was the origin of such messages. But many consider that the role of PFI in circulating such messages was significant. It created an exodus of people belonging to North-East from major cities.
The attitude of PFI is very clear in the words of Prof. P Koya a founding member of the outfit. In an interview published in Washingtonpost.com, he said, “If left with no other options we will resort to violence and it is justified. And Islam is not hypocritical in that way.” The activities motivated by such an attitude are the real reasons behind the call for ‘Ban PFI’ demand.
(The writer is a political observer and researcher)