IN THE second nationwide crackdown on the Popular Front of India (PFI) in five days, police teams across seven states conducted raids on Tuesday and detained or arrested over 270 people with alleged links to the radical outfit.
The police in Karnataka were at the forefront of the operations, detaining “as a precautionary measure” more than 80 members of the PFI and its political wing, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), in the state. The action was taken over inputs of possible disturbance to public order, officers said.
Raids were also conducted in UP, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. Officials said 57 people were detained in UP and 48 in Maharashtra. Officials in most of these states described the raids, detentions and arrests as “preventive action”.
Sources told The Indian Express that discussions held over the past week and linked to the two nationwide operations for the PFI’s alleged support for terror activities raise the possibility of a ban being imposed on the organisation.
Also Tuesday, in action that was not related to the second crackdown, the police in Kerala arrested 221 people with alleged links to PFI in connection with the violence that took place during the hartal called by the outfit in protest against the arrest of its leaders last week.
With the latest move, the total arrests of those with alleged PFI links over the last five days in Kerala have risen to 1,809. Besides, 834 people have been taken into preventive custody.
Meanwhile, the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has approached the Kerala High Court seeking compensation of Rs 5.06 crore from those who had called for the hartal, stating that over 70 of its buses were damaged.
Last Thursday, a multi-agency nationwide operation in 15 states spearheaded by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and law enforcement agencies had led to the arrest of over 100 PFI workers, including the outfit’s chairman O M A Salam.
On Tuesday, raids were conducted in different parts of Karnataka, such as Mangaluru, Bagalkot, Bidar, Raichur and Gadag, the police said.
The state’s ADGP (Law and Order) Alok Kumar said 80 people were nabbed in the early morning operation and produced before the respective taluk magistrates and sent to preventive custody. Those detained wanted to foment trouble and “create an impression that law and order in the state had gone for a toss”, Kumar said, adding that 20 others have been placed under scrutiny.
In Lucknow, UP ADGP (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said 57 people were taken into custody from 26 districts by local police teams, Special Task Force and Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) “because of the involvement of PFI and its affiliated outfits’ members in violence and its members’ increasing involvement in anti-national activities”.
In Maharashtra, 48 people were detained by the police for their suspected involvement in anti-national activities under CrPC section 151, which pertains to preventive action. An officer said those detained included 14 in Aurangabad, seven in Pune, four in Mumbai, and three each in Thane and Nanded districts.
In Delhi, the police conducted multiple raids in early Tuesday in the six districts, including Nizamuddin and New Usmanpur, and detained 30 people as a preventive measure.
At least 25 suspected PFI activists were arrested from different districts of Assam, including 10 in Goalpara, five in Kamrup (Rural) and three in Dhubri, followed by arrests in Barpeta, Baksa, Darrang, Udalguri and Karimganj, officials said.
The Madhya Pradesh Police detained 21 people from eight districts for their links with the PFI, state Home Minister Narottam Mishra said. They were detained on the basis of interrogation of PFI activists arrested last week, Mishra said.
In Gujarat, 15 alleged PFI “sympathisers” were detained, mostly from Ahmedabad, early in the morning, an ATS official said. Those detained included 10 people in Ahmedabad, three in Banaskantha, and one each in Surat and Navsari.
Following the NIA-led operation last week, PFI office-bearers had condemned the action and said that the “raids are illegal and unconstitutional”.
(ENS in Bengaluru, Lucknow, Mumbai, New Delhi & Ahmedabad with agencies)