Trail of blood, violence and arson: South was PFI’s breeding ground  

Banned by the Centre for five years, members of the radical outfit and its affiliates have been booked for numerous political murders in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Most of these crimes were committed in retaliation to communal incidents  

PFI, Islamic outfit, popular front of India, South India connect
PFI members in Kerala had recently staged protests against the Centre's five-year ban on the outfit. File photo

The Popular Front of India (PFI), which has been banned by the Centre for five years following countrywide raids on its offices and arrests of its leaders by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), has had marked notoriety in southern India, particularly in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

It is evident from the large number of cases filed against the outfit in these states, including those for murder, kidnapping and arson, over the past three decades. Interestingly, most of the acts PFI is accused of were committed in retaliation to communal incidents, and were directed at the BJP, RSS and other fringe Hindutva outfits.

In fact, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in its notification announcing the ban on PFI and its nine affiliates, cited at least four murders of Hindutva activists to justify its ban on the outfit.

Most of these cases are being handled by central agencies, including the NIA and Intelligence Bureau while the accused have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other IPC sections. With the investigating agencies having filed charge sheets in almost all the cases, many of these cases await trial while several are in different stages of hearing.

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Here is a timeline of cases filed against the PFI:

1993: Police records trace PFI’s ‘criminal’ roots to the Chennai of 1990s. In November 1993, the Manitha Neethi Parasai (MNP) – PFI’s parent organisation, formed in retaliation to the demolition of the Babri Masjid – was accused of attacking the RSS office in Chennai, in which 11 Sangh cadres were killed. This was almost a decade before PFI took birth after the merger of the MNP, the National Development Front (NDF) and the Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD).

2003: NDF, which merged with PFI later, was involved in the Marad Beach carnage in Kerala, in May 2003. Eight Hindu fishermen were killed after a scuffle erupted between Hindus and Muslims over drinking water from a public tap. In 2009, a special court sentenced 65 Muslims to life imprisonment, most of them being cadres of the NDF, Indian Union Muslim League and People’s Democratic Party.

Also read: What is PFI and why has the Centre ordered a nationwide crackdown?

2010: On April 27, 2010, the body of a young Dalit worker was found hanging at a lodge in Kerala’s Kannur. The body bore 22 injury marks of brutal torture. Reports quoting the police said the veins of both his hands had been slit, leading to a copious discharge of blood. Kerala police took six months to tell the court that the youth had been tortured to death. A highly placed police source in Bengaluru said that investigation revealed that the accused belonged to PFI and a case was filed against the outfit.

2011: Another case was filed against PFI’s parent organisation KFD on July 8, 2011 for the kidnap and murder of two boys in Mysore. According to Karnataka police records, Sudheendra and Vignesh were kidnapped on June 8, 2011 from the premises of Mahajana College in Mysore and allegedly murdered by members of KFD, who sought a ransom of ₹5 crore to raise funds for their organisation. The NIA has submitted its charge sheet to the court in the case.

2011: In December 2011, a case was registered against the PFI after members of its student’s wing, the Campus Front of India (CFI) allegedly stabbed three fishermen from the Hindu community in Kerala.

2012: In June 2012, Tamil Nadu police booked 30 PFI cadres who participated in a camp organised by the outfit in Tamil Nadu’s Ramanathapuram district near the famous Hindu pilgrimage spot Rameshwaram. They were later released on bail. Incidentally M H Jawahirullah of the Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, was the MLA of Rameshwaram at that time.

The agencies in Tamil Nadu alerted the state Special Branch after they found cadres from Assam, Bihar and Kerala participating in camp. The NIA has mentioned the same in its charge sheet and the case awaits trial.

2012: In July 2012, PFI activists allegedly stabbed to death two students Sachin Gopal (20) and Vishal Kumar (19) in Kannur in Kerala.

2016: The Home Ministry in its notification announcing the ban on PFI also cited the murder of RSS leader R Rudresh in Bengaluru. On October 16 2016 Rudresh was hacked to death by two motorcycle-borne miscreants on Kamaraj Road in central Bengaluru while he was returning from an RSS rally.

The Bengaluru district president of PFI, Asim Sheriff was arrested for allegedly being in contact with the assailants via his aide’s phone before the murder. He has been in jail since 2016. While the NIA has taken over the case, the matter is under trial. The Karnataka High Court has rejected the bail petitions of the main accused, including Irfan Pasha and Mohammed Muzeeb Ulla, who were arrested by Bengaluru police.

2016: The MHA had cited the murder case of Praveen Poojary in Kodagu to prove the outfit’s alleged criminal roots.

Poojary, a member of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike (HJV), was murdered in Kushalanagar of Karnataka’s Kodagu district while returning home from a procession on August 14, 2016. He was killed allegedly in retaliation to stone pelting at a mosque during an HJV procession. While police had arrested nine accused, all from the PFI in the case, the principal district and session court in Madikeri acquitted them in December 2021 as there was no convincing evidence submitted by the prosecution to prove the crime.

2017: PFI members have been accused of hacking to death RSS worker Sharath Madiwala near Bantwala in Dakshina Kannada district on July 4, 2017. The murder was suspected to be committed in retaliation to the killing of Ashraf Kalayi, a member of the SDPI. SDPI is considered as a political wing of the PFI. The police have filed a charge sheet in the case which is under trial.

2018: The NIA filed a charge sheet against key conspirators S Subari, Mohammed Rafiqul Hassan and B Sadham Hussain in the murder case of Hindu Munnani functionary C Sasikumar in 2016. He was killed on September 29, 2016, allegedly by SDPI members in revenge for hoisting the Hindu Munnani flag in the SDPI flag post.

Also read: Chequered past of PFI: Formed to confront CPI-M, now in crosshairs of right wing

2019: According to police records, an 18-member PFI group was allegedly behind the brutal murder of Pattali Makkal Katchi leader Ramalingam on February 5, 2019, in Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. NIA has already issued lookout notices for six accused PFI men who are absconding. The NIA has filed a charge sheet in the Special Court at Poonamalee in Chennai and the trial is expected soon.

2022: Thirty-two-year-old BJP worker Praveen Nettaru was hacked to death by bike-borne assailants on July 25, 2022. Police said the two accused, who were later arrested, confirmed their links with the PFI. The killing, according to police, was to avenge the murder of a 19-year-old youth named Masood.

Architects of riots, arson, hate messages, say police

Police have also accused the PFI of having torched the house of Bengaluru’s Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivas Murthy and K G Halli Police Station during violent riots in Bengaluru’s J Halli and K G Halli in August 2020. An incendiary post on Islam by Murthy’s nephew P Naveen Kumar had incited the riot, resulting in the death of three people.

Police said the riots were planned in advance, and a meeting was held in Thanisandra by PFI in the evening, hours before the violence where the plan was briefed to rioters.

In the wake of the 2012 riots between Bodos and Bangladeshi Muslims in Assam, Islamist forces started a campaign of spreading rumours of terror attacks by northeast students in Karnataka, resulting in an exodus of people from the northeast from Bengaluru. According to sources in intelligence agencies, a bulk of hate messages which originated from servers in Pakistan were received by the cadres of PFI who in turn disseminated those to Bangladeshi jihad outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI).

Also read: PFI ban: Security tightened in Delhi, Kerala; what Owaisi, Yogi, Bommai say

In Karnataka, PFI has been involved in around 320 cases, including 18 murder and three attempts to murder cases. The banned outfit is said to be more active in parts of Kerala, which borders the Dakshina Kannada, Bengaluru, and Mysore areas. In Karnataka, they operate from three districts, including Mysuru, Kalaburgi and Kodagu, police said.

 

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