The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has sent a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recommending a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI). The government of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has accused the organisation and its political front, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) of “masterminding and instigating violence” during the recent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).
On Tuesday (December 31), Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said PFI was the “incarnation” of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). “The PFI’s role has been established in vandalism in the state… The truth is emerging through the probe. If SIMI reappears in any form, it will be crushed,” Maurya said.
SIMI, which was formed in 1977, is banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. It is accused of standing for the propagation of Islamist jihad and the establishment of Islamic rule in India.
In a press release, PFI said that the accusations against it were “absurd” and a “face saving act”. It said: “In most of the states the police were respectful of people’s democratic rights to dissent. Only in Yogi Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh, police brazenly turned protests into bloodbath and destruction… We condemn this move, which is nothing but a face saving act”.
The PFI was set up in 2006 as a federation of the National Development Fund (NDF), which was formed in Kerala in 1993 and subsequently emerged as the Manitha Neethi Pasarai (MNP) in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) in Karnataka.
The PFI describes itself as a “cadre-based movement”, which is developed through routine, training and education regarding management, leadership and mass mobilisation. It calls itself a socio-political movement that strives for the empowerment of the Muslims and other marginalised sections of society.
In a release issued on December 25, 2019, the PFI said: “The endeavour of NPR (National Population Register) does not pertain to usual census pursued as per the Census Act of 1948… All these point to the sinister agenda behind the preparation of NPR, a dubious way of launching controversial NRC.” The UP Police announced that day the arrest of two members of the PFI in connection with anti-CAA protests.
The organisation has been accused earlier of multiple violent and extremist incidents. Police in Kerala and Karnataka have found evidence of the use of lethal weapons in PFI centres.
SDPI is PFI’s political front, founded, according to the organisation, for the “advancement and uniform development” of all citizens, including Muslims, Dalits, Backward classes and Adivasis. SDPI was formed and declared in 2009, and was registered with the Election Commission of India in 2010.
“The Social Democratic Party of India, (SDPI), was founded on 21st June, 2009 as the political platform for the advancement of the people of India, particularly the weaker and marginalized sections of the society. The SDPI wants a complete revamp of the system. Grass root level democracy and empowerment of people are fundamental to this change,” according to SDPI’s website. The SDPI claims to uphold values including national integration, communal amity, and social harmony.
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