The National Investigation Agency and the Enforcement Directorate on Thursday morning raided premises linked to the Popular Front of India in 11 states and arrested over 100 leaders as well as functionaries for alleged terror links, PTI reported.
The Popular Front of India was created in 2007 through the merger of three Muslim organisations in southern India. It describes itself as an organisation that works towards “the achievement of socio-economic, cultural and political empowerment of the deprived and the downtrodden and the nation at large”.
On Thursday, the maximum number of arrests were made in Kerala (22), followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka (20 each), Andhra Pradesh (5), Assam (9), Delhi (3), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry (3), Tamil Nadu (10), Uttar Pradesh (8) and Rajasthan (2).
By the evening, 18 arrested persons were sent to the custody of the National Investigation Agency for four days after being produced in Delhi’s Patiala House court, ANI reported. Meanwhile, a Mumbai court sent five others to the custody of the Mahatashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad for five days, according to PTI.
In Assam, nine persons were sent to police custody for five days by a court in Kamrup, ANI reported.
Popular Front of India members staged protests in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka against the arrests.
Police forces of the 11 states were also involved in Thursday’s joint operation, in which Delhi Popular Front of India unit chief Parvez Ahmed and his brother were among those arrested, India Today reported.
Officials described the raids as the “largest-ever investigation process till date”. The searches, according to them, are being carried out against those involved in terror funding, organising training camps and radicalising persons to join proscribed organisations.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Director General of National Investigation Agency Dinkar Gupta to discuss the development.
In a statement, the Popular Front of India said that raids are taking place at the homes of its national, state and local leaders of the organisation, PTI reported. The outfit described the action as “witch hunting” against its members and supporters, and alleged that the National Investigation Agency had made baseless claims to create an “atmosphere of terror”, ANI reported.
“We strongly protest the fascist regime’s moves to use agencies to silence dissenting voices,” the outfit said.
On Thursday afternoon, activists of the Popular Front of India held demonstrations in several cities of Kerala to protest against the raids, PTI reported. A Abdul Sathar, the general secretary of the Kerala unit of the organisation, has called for a 12-hour hartal from 6 am on Friday.
The Enforcement Directorate has been investigating the Popular Front of India’s financial links on charges of instigating protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the 2020 North East Delhi riots, and an alleged conspiracy in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district over the gangrape and murder of a Dalit woman, among other matters.
The agency has filed two chargesheets against the organisation and its office-bearers before a special Prevention of Money Laundering court in Lucknow, according to PTI.
On September 18, the NIA had raided 40 locations in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and detained four persons for alleged terror links.