The Kerala High Court on Friday initiated contempt proceedings against Popular Front of India leaders for the violent protests in the state during a hartal called by the outfit against the arrest of its cadres by the National Investigation Agency for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country, Live Law reported.

The hartal, which involves the closing of shops and offices to protest against a political situation or an act of government, started at 6 am on Friday and will continue till 6 pm.

At a hearing, a division bench of Kerala High Court Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias CP noted that hartals were banned by the court in an order passed in January 2019.

“The action of the aforementioned persons in calling for the hartal without following the procedure contemplated in our earlier order, prima facie, amounts to contempt of the directions of this court,” the judges said.

During the strike, protestors supporting the Popular Front of India smashed the windscreens of Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Panthalam, Kollam, Thrissur and Kannur, The Hindu reported. In Kozhikode, a bus driver was injured.

Two police officers were allegedly attacked by supporters of the strike in Kollam. An airport employee was also injured after being targeted while returning home from duty.

At its hearing, the High Court directed the state police to ensure that adequate measures are put in place to prevent damage to property of those who are not supporting the Muslim organisation’s call for hartal. “Adequate police protection shall also be granted to all public utility services that apprehend violence, at the hands of those supporting the illegal hartal,” the order said.

They also asked the state government to take stern action against those who violate the 2019 court order stating that nobody can call for a bandh without giving a public notice of seven days.

The High Court urged the media to mention its 2019 order so that the public is aware.

“This, in our view, would suffice to a large extent, in allaying the apprehensions of the general public as regards the legality of the call for hartal and also dissuade providers of public utility services from heeding to such calls for illegal hartals in future,” the order said.

Raids against Popular Front of India

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 morning, the National Investigation Agency and the Enforcement Directorate raided premises linked to the Popular Front of India in 11 states and arrested over 100 leaders as well as functionaries.

Officials described the raids as the “largest-ever investigation process till date”. The searches, according to them, were carried out against those involved in terror funding, organising training camps and radicalising persons to join proscribed organisations.

The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala has described the Popular Front of India as an Islamist organisation. In a statement filed in the High Court in 2019, the Left Democratic Front had linked the organisation to several political murders, an allegation denied by the Popular Front of India.