Crackdown on PFI: Civil Rights, Lawyers’ Groups Call it Abuse of Govt Machinery

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Absence of any clear crime committed and just the statement of an “assumption” of a vague “conspiracy to radicalise Muslim youth” in the FIR makes it clear that the target is not so much one organisation, but the entire Muslim community’

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Several civil rights and lawyers groups have condemned the nationwide raids against Popular Front of India (PFI) and the arrest of dozens of their top leaders and members describing the government action as a “witch-hunt” and “abuse of the government machinery”.

“The weaponization of the government’s investigative agencies and criminal law could not be clearer and AILAJ condemns such politically motivated abuse of government machinery, which is also a clampdown on voices speaking up to abuse of State power. We also believe that this is a conscious attempt to spread Islamophobia among the public and demonise Muslims, which is already reeling under an all-out attack by the RSS/BJP using the entire state apparatus as also state-sponsored mob violence,” said All India Lawyer’s Association for Justice (AILAJ) on Sunday reacting to the crackdown on the PFI

On 22 August, National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted raids on the offices of the PFI across the country arresting around 50 people associating with the group. The agencies claimed that the crackdown was carried out in view of allegations of terror activities. However, the rights group pointed out that the FIRs filed against the PFI are merely based on assumption and surmises.

“As per the FIR No 03228/2022 which filed by an officer of the crime branch, it says that he received credible information on the evening of 21st September that PFI was involved in an organized conspiracy to radicalise Muslim youth and create enmity. However, the complaint has on reference to any incident of any crime and is merely based on assumptions and surmises. On the basis of such a complaint where no crime itself is made out, raids have been carried out and arrests made,” said Bahutva Karnataka, a civil rights group based in Karnataka.

It noted that the absence of any clear crime that is committed and just the statement of an “assumption” of a vague “conspiracy to radicalise Muslim youth” in the FIR makes it clear that the target is not so much one organisation but the entire Muslim community that has been reeling under repeated and targeted assaults on its fundamental rights to exist as equal citizens in this country.

“It appears that an attempt is being made to ban PFI, and such attempts are completely undemocratic. The manner in which this exercise is being carried out is much like the ban on SIMI where hundreds of Muslims were arrested, only to be acquitted after several years,” said the Bahutva Karantaka.

It said that this misuse of the state apparatus to use these arrests and raids to spread Islamophobia in the public is also clear from the fact that there has been on investigation whatsoever into the allegation made by Yashwant Shinde, who claims to have been associated with the RSS since 1990. In a sworn affidavit before the Nanded sessions court on August 29 this year he said that the RSS and BJP have been involved in bomb blasts to help the BJP fight elections.

“The fact that such a direct allegation is being not being followed by any investigation while raids and arrests are made on the basis of assumptions of “credible information” is of indicative of the discriminatory nature of the state,” it said. 

Quoting a statement made by the NIA official with regard to the crackdown, the group said that the PFI was targeted because of its campaigns against the fake encounters, police atrocities and illegal incarceration of human rights activists.

“It is made clear that the intention of the Government and the NIA is indeed to vilify all forms of dissent with total disregard for the constitutional rights and duties of citizens to protect democracy,” it said.  

Besides these two groups, Baghat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch and Chatra Ekta Manch issued the statements condemning the crackdown against the PFI.

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