Shah chairs key meet, calls for strict action

Shah chairs key meet, calls for strict action

New Delhi: Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday chaired a high-level meeting with top officials, including national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, over the nationwide crackdown against Popular Front of India (PFI) and called for strict action against the organisation, officials familiar with the developments said.

At least 108people were arrested in the searches conducted by National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and police forces in 15states and one Union Territory. The searches were conducted on the basis of five First Information Reports (FIRs) filed by NIA linking PFI to terror financing and hate crimes.

During the hour-long meeting, which was also attended by NIA chief Dinkar Gupta, Intelligence Bureau chief Tapan Deka, and Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla, the agencies shared details of raids and evidence collected on activities of PFI and its political arm, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the officials cited above said.

The officials also discussed the future course of action against the organisation, which, according to evidence gathered by probe agencies in the last three years, has been found to be involved in several anti-national activities, including radicalisation of Muslim youth, money laundering , maintaining links with banned groups and inciting riots.

Thursday’s crackdown was a result of the home minister’s regular meetings with federal agencies in the past one year on the matter, one of the officials said on condition of anonymity, although the immediate trigger was PFI’s involvement in five recent cases — ranging from terror financing to hate crime to radicalisation. Shah directed both NIA and ED to take the help of the best legal minds to thwart PFI’s attempts to get any relief for their arrested members from courts in cases involving terror-funding and radicalisation, the official added.

PFI has increased its presence in several states in the last few years, a second official said. “Its senior office bearers often travel to Gulf countries to collect funds which are used for organising various activities against a state. Its members have been found linked to Islamic State operatives, now banned outfit SIMI (Students’ Islamic Movement of India) and other groups, and evidence has been submitted to the ministry of home affairs (MHA),” the official added, also seeking anonymity.

PFI has been pursuing a multipronged strategy aimed at communalising the nation’s polity, encouraging and enforcing Taliban’s brand of Islam, heightening existing social divisions, dislodging moderate mainstream Muslim organisations from the collective mind of community and maintaining a trained brand of volunteers for physical actions, the official added.

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