New Delhi, Sep 28 (EFE).- The Indian government on Thursday banned the Muslim organization Popular Front of India (PFI), for allegedly having links to terrorist outfits and promoting extremism.
The move comes amid a continuing crackdown on the group, that had already resulted in around 50 detentions over the past week in a series of raids in different parts of the country.
The five year ban on the PFI has been termed as an attack on democracy by its political affiliate Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which has not been banned, while the move has been questioned by the opposition.
The Home Ministry on Wednesday declared PFI and eight other affiliated bodies as “unlawful associations” under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
In a notification, the Indian authorities accused the Muslim organization of involvement in various criminal and terrorist cases and of maintaining links with extremist groups such as the Islamic State, and the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, banned in 2001.
Indian authorities said the members of the organization were convicted in the attack on a teacher in the southern state of Kerala in 2010 for supposedly insulting Prophet Muhammad, besides several other attacks and killings in recent years.
According to a tweet by the home ministry, the PFI and its affiliated units have been involved in serious offenses such as “terrorism, its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding Constitutional set up of India, distrbng public order,” which threaten “India’s integrity, security, sovereignty.”
The ministry also claimed the PFI pursued a secret agenda to radicalize the Muslim minority, with a population of 172 million or 14.2 percent of the population, according to the last census of 2011.
The ban comes a day after security forces in several Indian states arrested several PFI members, following a similar operation last week by the National Investigation Agency.
Noted figures from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has defended the ban on grounds of national security.
“The Government is firm in its resolve to ensure that anyone with a diabolical, divisive or disruptive design against India shall be dealt with iron fist,” tweeted Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP member and chief minister of the northeastern state of Assam.
SDPI chief M.K. Faizy, on his part, released a statement Wednesday describing the move as a “blow on democracy” and accused the BJP of cracking down on critical voices.
Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party called the government’s decision “draconian” and “dangerous,” although he claimed to have been opposed to the strategy of the organization.
The PFI was established in 2007 after the merger of three Muslim groups active in southern India: the National Democratic Front of Kerala, the Forum for Dignity in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’s Manitha Neethi Pasarai.
The organization formed the SDPI in 2009 and claims to work for the rights of Muslims and other marginalized communities in India, although it has been accused of promoting extremism by groups such as the BJP.
The BJP-led Karnataka government recently accused the PFI of inciting Muslim students to wear the Islamic veil, after a ban on this garment triggered protests in the region earlier this year. EFE