Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi: Activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) on Thursday staged protests across Kerala against the raids carried out in their organization’s offices, houses of leaders, and other premises by multi-agencies led by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country. The outfit also called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in the southern state on Friday to mark their strong protest against the central agencies’ act.
A PFI statement here said its state committee observed that the arrest of the leaders was part of “state-sponsored terrorism”. “A hartal will be observed in the state on September 23 against the RSS-controlled fascist government’s attempt to silence dissenting voices using the central agencies,” A Abdul Sathar, state general secretary, PFI, said. The hartal would be held from 6 AM to 6 PM, he said in the statement.
As news of the early morning searches broke out, PFI workers took out marches to the places where the raids were carried out and raised slogans against the Centre and its investigating agencies. However, central forces were already deployed in all such places as part of strengthening security.
PROTEST MARCHES IN MAJOR CITIES OF KERALA
A PFI source here said protest marches were carried out in almost all districts including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur. “The searches were mainly carried out in the offices of the state and district committees and the houses of its office-bearers. Though initially we thought the searches were conducted by the Enforcement Directorate, it has become clear later that it was by the NIA,” the source told PTI.
14 PFI OFFICE-BEARERS TAKEN INTO CUSTODY
As many as 14 office-bearers of the PFI, including national, state and district leaders, were taken into custody from the state by the central agencies, the source said. PFI state president C P Mohammed Basheer, national chairman O M A Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram and others were among those in custody, the source added. Local media reported that all the leaders and workers, who were taken into custody from various parts of the state, would be brought to the NIA office in Kochi.
THRISSUR-BASED SDPI LEADER’S HOUSE RAIDED TOO
The house of a Thrissur-based leader of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) was also raided, the outfit’s state president Ashraf Maulavi said. Addressing a press conference here, he said those who believe and act in accordance with the Constitution of the country should expect any such fascist move against them in RSS-ruled India. “Through such deeds, the Centre is actually indulging in anti-constitutional activities. The public society should raise its voice against such practices to protect the country,” he said.
He said the central investigating agencies were trying to create a smoke screen against the outfits which have been functioning in a democratic manner and legal steps would be taken against such acts after consulting with the national leadership. The leader also claimed that those documents reportedly seized during the raids, were only public relations stuff used by the outfits for its campaign.
What is the Popular Front of India?
The PFI was created in 2007 through the merger of three Muslim organizations in southern India, the National Democratic Front in Kerala, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity, and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai in Tamil Nadu.
A decision to bring the three outfits together was taken in November 2006 at a meeting in Kozhikode in Kerala. The formation of the PFI was formally announced at a rally in Bengaluru during what was called the “Empower India Conference” on February 16, 2007.
The PFI, which emerged in the aftermath of the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), has projected itself as an organization that fights for the rights of minorities, Dalits, and marginalized communities. It has frequently targeted the alleged anti-people policies of the Congress, the BJP, and the JD-S in Karnataka, even as these mainstream parties have accused one another of being in cahoots with the PFI to gather the support of Muslims at the time of elections.