PFI members take to streets; state units call bandh today

Updated on Sep 23, 2022 07:03 AM IST

Describing the raids as “state-sponsored terrorism”, PFI called for a bandh across Kerala and in coastal Karnataka on Friday.

A multi-agency operation by NIA, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and police forces on Thursday led to the arrest of 108 PFI activists in 15 states and one Union Territory for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country (PTI)
A multi-agency operation by NIA, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and police forces on Thursday led to the arrest of 108 PFI activists in 15 states and one Union Territory for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country (PTI)
By, Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram/bengaluru/chennai

Members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) on Thursday protested across Kerala, coastal Karnataka, and parts of Tamil Nadu against the pre-dawn raids and arrests of its activists by multiple agencies spearheaded by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.

Describing the raids as “state-sponsored terrorism”, PFI called for a bandh across Kerala and in coastal Karnataka on Friday.

“A hartal (strike) 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,” said A Abdul Sathar, Kerala general secretary, PFI. The bandh will be observed for 12 hours starting 6am, he added in a statement.

A multi-agency operation by NIA, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and police forces on Thursday led to the arrest of 108 PFI activists in 15 states and one Union Territory for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.

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 Union government and investigating agencies. However, no violence was reported as central forces were already deployed around all such places.

In Kerala, a PFI office-bearer, requesting anonymity, said protest marches were carried out in almost all districts, including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur.

Raids were conducted at the state and district offices of PFI, and the homes of the office-bearers were searched, he said. “Twenty-two office-bearers of PFI — including national, state and district leaders — were taken into custody from the state by the central agencies,” he added.

Those arrested include PFI national chairman OMA Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram, and Kerala president CP Mohammed Basheer, the office-bearer said.

House of a Thrissur-based leader of the Social Democratic Party of India — the political wing of PFI — was also raided, said SDPI’s state president Ashraf Moulavi.

Those who believe and act in accordance with the Constitution of the country should expect such “fascist move against them” in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-ruled India, alleged Maulavi while talking to reporters in Kerala’s capital. “Through such deeds, the Centre is actually indulging in anti-constitutional activities. The society should raise its voice against such practices to protect the country,” he added.

The RSS is the ideological fount of the country’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In Karnataka, PFI and SDPI workers held a protest in Mangaluru city hours after the raid, following which police detained their 40 members. “NIA is conducting search operations in Mangaluru city. Following this, around 50-60 people gathered for a protest in the city,” said N Shashi Kumar, Mangaluru’s police commissioner. “These areas are very sensitive, so we have deployed police and asked people not to carry out any protests. When they continued to hold protests in sensitive areas, we made some preventive detentions. We have detained around 40 people, who are workers of PFI and SDPI.”

Abubakkar Kulai, SDPI’s Mangaluru district president, said NIA officials searched their officer around 3.30 am. “They have taken some documents like our rental agreement, some papers regarding our activities and some photographs of our programmes,” he told reporters. “We are cooperating with them.”

PFI will observe bandh in coastal Karnataka districts on Friday, he added.

In Kerala and Karnataka, additional police forces are being deployed in areas with sizeable PFI presence to avoid any untoward incident during Friday prayers, said a senior Kerala police officer. “We are also holding consultation with PFI leaders and members of different communities,” the officer added.

In Tamil Nadu, protests by PFI members were reported from several locations soon after NIA arrested two office-bearers from Coimbatore district. In several places, PFI members raised “Go back NIA” and “NIA go back” slogans, said a police officer.

Tamil Nadu PFI state president M Muhammad Shaik Ansari termed the raids as a “cowardly act”, and accused NIA and ED of trying to “intimidate anyone who exposes the anti-people activities” of the BJP and the RSS.

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