PFI chairman O M A Salam, national secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram and Kerala unit president C P Mohammed Basheer were among the organisation leaders arrested by Central agencies during a nationwide swoop Thursday.
Its top brass held, the PFI called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kerala Friday.
PFI state general secretary Abdul Sathar, in a statement, slammed the use of the “state machinery” and claimed that Central agencies were being used to “silence the dissenting voices”.
The arrest of PFI national and state leaders, Sathar said, cannot be justified.
The BJP, on the other hand, urged the CPM-led state government to take stern action against those calling for the hartal and ensure normal life on Friday.
BJP state president K Surendran said, “The PFI should not think that it can confront terrorism cases with muscle power. The state government is soft on PFI to appease a vote bank.”
Protesting the searches and arrests Thursday, PFI workers took to the streets across Kerala and stalled movement of vehicles, demanding that the NIA and ED stop their action.
Hundreds of PFI workers gathered near the organisation’s premises, raising slogans against the Union government and the Sangh Parivar.
According to sources, 24 PFI leaders have been either taken into custody or arrested after searches at some 35 premises.
In 2020, ED had searched the premises of PFI chairman Salam who had worked in the state electricity board’s audit section.
The PFI’s most visible presence has been in Kerala where it has been repeatedly accused of murder, rioting, intimidation and links with terror organisations.
In 2012, the Kerala government, then headed by Oommen Chandy of the Congress, had informed the High Court that the PFI was “nothing but a resurrection of the banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in another form”. In an affidavit, the government said PFI activists were involved in 27 cases of murder, mostly of CPM and RSS cadres, and that the motives were communal.
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Two years later, the Kerala government, in another affidavit, told the High Court that the PFI had an agenda of “Islamisation of society by promoting conversion, communalisation of issues with a view to the benefit of Islam, recruitment, and maintenance of a branded, committed, indoctrinated Muslim youth for undertaking actions including selective elimination of persons, who in their perception are enemies of Islam”.
The 2014 affidavit was in response to a petition filed by Thejas, the PFI’s mouthpiece in Kerala, which had challenged the denial of government advertisements since March 2013.
The affidavit reiterated that workers of the PFI and its predecessor, National Development Front (NDF), were involved in 27 cases of communally motivated murders, 86 cases of attempt to murder, and 106 cases of communal nature in the state.