PFI down, not out


The firebrand, pro-Islamist Popular Front of India has finally taken a huge hit. The outfit that had spread its wings to several states from Kerala and Karnataka and reached out also to UP, Bihar and Delhi in the past 20 years faces an abrupt ban from the central government. Reports are that it has dissolved itself. Hundreds of top functionaries of the PFI have been arrested in simultaneous late-night raids by National Investigation Agency and Enforcement Directorate from multiple locations since September 22 and its offices are being sealed. Except for a day’s hartal in Kerala and stray protests elsewhere, the PFI was hugely rattled. Even the murmur of protests has died down while even entities like the Muslim League have welcomed the central offensive. It would however be foolish to believe that PFI was chastened. Having grown this far, its activists are bound to regroup. Questions are asked whether the ban will be of any help or why ban only the PFI.
The PFI had originally fashioned itself in the style of the RSS but shifted gear to a more aggressive tone in recent times. It developed a uniformed force with regular parades, armed training etc. Alongside, it set up educational institutions and orphanages – through which it sought and got huge sums from abroad in the name of charity. Central agencies say PFI also contributed fighters for global terrorist groups like the ISIS. Several murders in recent years were attributed to it; the main victims being Hindutva activists. A recent rally it held in Kerala heard slogans warning Hindus and Christians that “our killer squads are on the way.” What it failed to fathom was the central intelligence agencies were keeping a close watch.
Clearly, the belligerence on the part of the PFI had largely to do with the generous flow of funds to it from donors in the Gulf countries. The Enforcement Directorate is perusing PFI bank records while several of the arrested men as also the seized documents, pen drives and computer systems are facing detailed investigation. Massive arrests from several states are continuing. Yet, sleeper cells of the closely-knit PFI and its allied outfits are said to be functional. Many have evaded arrest and have gone underground. A possibility is they could regroup and create mayhem. The system of democracy gives sufficient scope to one and all to air their grievances and highlight violation of rights by governmental and other agencies. Courts are meant to offer a level playing field. But, those who opt to go berserk are bound to face the consequences sooner than later.