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Over 100 arrested in nationwide raid against Indian Muslim group PFI

India’s top investigative agency has conducted a nationwide raid on a prominent Islamic organization, detaining more than 100 members and accusing them of having links to terrorism.

Simultaneous raids on the offices of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and the homes of its members were carried out in almost 12 states on Thursday morning by the federally controlled National Investigative Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Agency (ED). rice field.

Most of the arrests were made in southern states. In Muslim-majority areas, he said, 22 people were arrested in the state of Kerala, where the PFI has great influence.

Those arrested were in Maharashtra and Karnataka (20 each), Andhra Pradesh (5), Assam (9), Delhi (3), Madhya Pradesh (4), Pudusheri (3), It was also done in Tamil Nadu (10 people) and Uttar Pradesh (8 people). ) and Rajasthan (2), according to Indian media reports.

India’s NDTV network said at least four PFI members had been indicted under the Unlawful Practices Act (UAPA), a strict terrorism law that allows a person to spend years in prison without trial, as the law has strict bail provisions.

Members of the Central Reserve Police stand guard as NIA raids PFI office in Bengaluru [Jagadeesh/EPA]

PFI was established in 2007 after the merger of three Muslim groups: National Democratic Front of Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity of Karnataka and Manisa Neethi Passarai of Tamil Nadu.

In 2009, the organization formed its political arm, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), to contest elections.

PFI says it works for the rights of Muslims and other marginalized communities in India. However, right-wing Hindu groups, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have accused the group of violent attacks against its members.

“Totalitarian regime using institutions as puppets”

Union Minister Giriraj Singh accused the PFI of “working against India” and his counterpart Ramdas Asaware said the group was “linked to terrorist organizations”.

“There is nothing wrong with running an organization or uniting a Muslim community. ‘, Athawale told reporters.

“If they want to live in India, PFI itself should change…they should support India.”

However, the PFI called the NIA and the ED raided a “witch hunt” by the Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The Popular Front will never bow to the horrific actions of a totalitarian regime using its central institutions as puppets, and remains firm in its will to restore the spirit of our beloved country’s democratic system and constitution,” the statement said. said in Shared with Al Jazeera.

The raids sparked protests in several parts of Kerala, with the PFI calling for a strike on Friday.

Indian PFI raid
PFI members and supporters protest against NIA raids in Bengaluru [Jagadeesh/EPA]

Human rights activists have accused the government of using investigative agencies to harass and intimidate groups critical of government policies. Islamic groups have been particularly attacked and often accused of links to terrorism, they said.

“There are Hindu supremacist groups and their leaders who regularly call for violence against Muslims. They will be allowed to become victims and will not be punished,” activist Kavita Krishnan told Al Jazeera.

Krishnan said the raids she described as “Islamophobic profiling” were reminiscent of those carried out against another Muslim group, the Students Islamic Movement in India (SIMI), in 2000.

“We know what happened as a result of the raid (in SIMI). There are so many innocent people who are not involved in crimes who are being profiled and who are involved in so many incidents. “They were acquitted and acquitted much later in the case. They had to spend time in prison unnecessarily,” she said.

“The danger is that PFI also creates a similar situation.”

Formed in 1976, SIMI was banned shortly after the 9/11 attacks in the United States. A number of people allegedly associated with the group were arrested on terrorism charges. Most of them were released after spending years in prison, after courts found no evidence against them.

In one incident in 2001, 127 Muslim men were arrested during a seminar in Gujarat and accused of links to terrorism.Last year, the district court acquitted all men, declares innocence. Five people died during the trial.

“When we have a specific allegation of a specific crime against a specific person, we pursue it. Even belonging to an organization is not a crime,” Krishnan said.

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