Opposition parties on Wednesday welcomed the Centre’s decision to ban the Popular Front of India but demanded a similar action against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, PTI reported.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government on Wednesday banned the Popular Front of India and its associates for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act over alleged terror activities.

A government notification alleged that the Muslim organisation along with its eight affiliates have been involved in “violent terrorist activities” and intended to create a reign of terror in the country, thereby endangering the security and public order of the state.

It also alleged that some founding members of the outfit are leaders of the Students Islamic Movement of India outfit and have links with the terror group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh. Both organisations are banned in 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”.

Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala on Wednesday alleged that the Popular Front of India and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh flare up communal hatred and try to create division in the society.

“In Kerala, both majority communalism and minority communalism should be equally opposed,” Chennithala said, according to PTI. “RSS should also be banned like this.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) raised a similar demand and said that imposing a ban on an extremist organisation or a communal force would not put an end to its activities.

“If an organisation has to be banned, then it has to be RSS,” CPI(M) Kerala Secretary MV Govindan said in a statement. “It is the main organisation carrying out communal activities.”

Security personnel outside the Popular Front of India office in Bengaluru on September 22. Credit: PTI

He added that governments should make the public aware of such groups and take legal action against them when they commit any illegality.

“Banning an organisation will not end it or its ideology,” Govindan added. “They would only come back with a new name or identity.”

The Indian Union Muslim League, a coalition partner of the Congress in Kerala, also said that it has always opposed the deeds of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Popular Front of India, PTI reported.

IUML leader MK Muneer alleged that the Muslim organisation had misinterpreted the Quran and persuaded the community members to adopt the path of violence.

“The PFI not only tried to mislead the young generation but also tried to create division and hatred in the society,” he said. “All Islamic scholars in the state have strongly condemned the extremist ideologies.”

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that while he has always opposed the approach of the Popular Front of India, a blanket ban on the organisation cannot be supported.

“The way India’s electoral autarky is approaching fascism, every Muslim youth will now be arrested with a PFI pamphlet under India’s black law, UAPA,” Owaisi said in a tweet. “...Why has the government not banned right-wing majoritarian organisations?”

‘Message to all anti-national groups’

Meanwhile, BJP leaders said that the move to ban the Popular Front of India was a message to all “anti-national groups” that they will not survive in this country.

“For a long time, it has been a demand by the people of this country, by all political parties including the opposition CPI, CPI(M) and the Congress,” Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai claimed, according to The Indian Express.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also praised the Narendra Modi-led Central government for its action against the Popular Front of India.

“The [Central] government is firm in its resolve to ensure that anyone with a diabolical, divisive or disruptive design against India shall be dealt with an iron fist,” Sarma said in a tweet. “India of Modi era is decisive and bold.”

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde thanked Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the decision. He also claimed said the Popular Front of India was planning unrest in his state.