The controversial Muslim group Popular Front of India (PFI) is staging a strike in the southern state of Kerala on Friday, a day after authorities raided its offices in several states and arrested many of its leaders. So what do we know about PFI?
About the raids
India’s top anti-terror agency, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which fights financial crime, carried out raids on Thursday morning in 11 states and arrested 106 PFI members, reported the Press Trust of India (PTI).
TV channel News18 quoted NIA sources as saying it was their “largest-ever investigation process [to] date”.
Later in the day, PFI members protested against the arrests in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
“The raids are taking place at the homes of national, state and local leaders of PFI,” the group said in a statement, accusing the government of trying “to use federal agencies to silence dissenting voices”.
A press release from the NIA said it had arrested 45 people in connection with five cases.
The agency says that during the searches, “incriminating documents, cash, sharp-edged weapons and a large number of digital devices have been seized”.
What is PFI?
Formed in 2006, the PFI describes itself “as a non-governmental social organisation whose stated objective is to work for the poor and disadvantaged people in the country and to oppose oppression and exploitation”.
The PFI came into existence after the National Development Front (NDF) – a controversial organisation established in Kerala a few years after the Babri mosque was demolished in 1992 – merged with two other organisations from the south. Over the next few years, the PFI developed a broader base as more organisations across India joined it.
Currently, the PFI, which has a strong presence in Kerala and Karnataka, is active in more than 20 Indian states and says its cadre strength is in the “hundreds of thousands”.