The Popular Front of India, banned on Wednesday, was indulging in "disturbing" the country's communal and secular fabric and "posing a grave threat" to national security by advancing its radical ideology and seeking to establish "political Islam" in India besides targeting Hindu activists, officials said.
According to officials monitoring activities of the PFI and its members, a secret 'service team' was formed, similar to the 'hit squads' whose main task was to provide security to senior PFI leaders and also kept track of Hindu leaders in their areas and plan action against them.
They alleged the PFI covertly organises training exercises, military-like drills, where participants are trained to use force and violence against certain religious groups, which are perceived as enemy of Islam.
They further alleged that since its inception, the PFI has been against Hindu organisations and its leaders and the group has a secret hit squad that engages in targeted killings of Hindu activists and those allegedly indulging in blasphemy.
The PFI is alleged to have been continuously involved in anti-government propaganda and spreading the narrative that Muslims were being persecuted in India.
It had allegedly taken a lead in organising anti-CAA protests during December 2019-March 2020 and many cases were registered against them which included 51 in Uttar Pradesh alone where the PFI-led platform, Samvidhan Suraksha Andolan, was among those which coordinated the anti-CAA agitations.
Through active involvement in the protests, the PFI was able to project itself as a prominent Muslim organisation capable of safeguarding interests of the community.
By projecting itself as champion of Muslim causes, the PFI had been successful in attracting new members over the years. Its role in Delhi riots was also investigated by the ED.
In recent years, the peaceful atmosphere of the country was threatened by PFI, which has presence in 17 states, officials said.
The murder of Praveen Nettaru in Bellare town on July 26 was one of the cases that exposed the violent character of PFI. Nettaru, a member of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha and a local businessman, was hacked to death in typical ISIS style by bike-borne assailants and most of the accused in the case had affiliation with the PFI, the officials alleged.
Investigation by local police claimed a chilling tale of cold-blooded murder by PFI cadres and SDPI members in retaliation to killing of 19-year-old Masood, a Muslim migrant labourer.
A list of RSS and Bajrang Dal members of the town was prepared and few were selected to avenge Masood's death and Nettaru was chosen as he had commented on the halal issue, officials said.
Disputing the claims of the PFI of being a social organisation working for the uplift of Muslims, the officials said on the contrary, the ground actions of PFI tell a totally different story with several of its cadres having a violent history.
Over 1400 criminal cases had been registered against PFI cadres and its affiliates across the country including the UAPA, the Explosive Substances Act, Arms Act and other sections of the IPC.
The officials claimed that interrogation of the accused in various cases showed that the PFI would identify Muslim youths, from poor or middle class background, for physical training during which they were also inculcated with anti-Hindutva ideology.
These cadres were trained in handling knife, sword, rods and how to attack specific body parts to inflict maximum damage.
On July 4, Telangana Police registered a case against 27 people after a training camp for 200 PFI cadres was found in Nizamabad. The PFI had been trying hard to make inroads into Telangana to increase its cadre base and was undertaking social programmes like distributing school books and food to the poor.
The officials alleged there have been a number of instances of international linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups where some of PFI activists, particularly from Kerala, had joined ISIS and had participated in terror activities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, which was the outcome of continuous radicalisation of its cadres.
While investigating the foreign funding trail of PFI, the ED found that PFI had formed district executive committees in various gulf countries including the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The India Fraternity Forum and Indian Social Forum were PFI's overseas fronts and were to politically engage the expatriate Muslims to conform to their ideology and organise funds for activities of PFI in India.
Their executive committees were responsible for sending money to PFI in India without leaving any trail. Funds were generally collected in cash and remitted to India either through hawala channels or camouflaged as remittances by sending it to the accounts of India based relatives and friends of PFI's members and sympathisers working abroad.
Further, PFI had linkages with dreaded Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, which was involved in several terror incidents in that country.
Also 21 people having linkages with the PFI had joined the internationally banned ISIS terror group.
Some Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent training videos, depicting gruesome murders, were recovered from the PFI cadre accused in the professor TJ Joseph hand-chopping case in 2010.
PFI's top leaders had visited Turkey in 2018 and 2019 to attend programmes related to Palestine.
Its radical activities had attracted the attention of an international radical outfit namely, the Party of Islamic Renewal, which had in April sent an online letter to PFI on the Twitter, praising its activities and urging it to organise a 'Revolutionary Army' for Jihad against the Indian government.
Pertinently, PFI has also been targeting leaders of the Sufi Islamic Board, who were campaigning constantly for a ban on the PFI.
Officials said since its inception in 2006, the PFI encouraged its cadres to undertake actions that mar peace and harmony among religious groups and disrupt secular fabric of the country.
Giving a brief history, they said on December 9, 2006, three south Indian Muslim fundamentalist groups -- National Development Front/NDF, Kerala; Karnataka Forum for Dignity/KFD, Karnataka; and Manitha Neethi Pasarai/MNP, Tamil Nadu, rechristened 'South India Council' (a Bengaluru-based organisation floated by NDF in 2004) as 'Popular Front of India'.
Several members of PFI, including its top leadership, had been active members of banned SIMI which included EM Abdul Rahiman (former Chairman), E Abubacker (Member, National Executive Council/NEC) and P Koya (Member, NEC).
SIMI was banned in 2001 under the UAPA for anti-national activities.
In their oath of allegiance, the PFI cadres swear to sacrifice their lives for the creation of Allah's rule (Shariah). This oath was administered to the cadre only when he was judged to have been suitably radicalised for the group.
PFI recruits were radicalised by display of selective video clippings on emotive issues like Babri Masjid demolition, communal riots in Gujarat and other parts of the country, aimed at instilling a sense of Muslim persecution and distrust against the State as well as other communities.
The officials claimed that during interrogation by the ED (December 2020), Rauf Sharief (former general secretary, CFI), had said that PFI runs a secret relief wing, which actually plans and executes revenge attacks on selected RSS leaders.
On the funding part, the officials said that PFI receives dubious funding from within the country as well as from abroad.
PFI and its affiliates maintain large number of bank accounts and receive money through its well-wishers/financers based in India and abroad. It also collects Zakat (donations) from its wealthy supporters.
Investigating its finances, the CBDT observed its activities were not genuine. The source of deposits in 36 bank accounts, out of 85 accounts of PFI, were not supported by the financial profile of the account holders, besides activities of PFI were not being carried out according to objects of the trust.
The ED had raided several office premises and residences of PFI leaders in 2020 and 2021 for suspected money laundering and arrested PFI leaders. During probe it was found the PFI had created a very well organised structure in Gulf countries for raising of funds and the collected fund was sent to India through Hawala.
It was found PFI was operating money laundering fronts overseas, which included Munnar Villa vista project in Kerala and Darbar restaurant in Abu Dhabi.
In Munnar Villa vista project, lakhs of unaccounted cash were infused and some benami shareholders were located in UAE, who later transferred the shares to PFI leaders.
The PFI was parking its illegally raised funds in this project so as to use them as and when required.
ED probe also revealed Anshad Badruddin (PFI, arrested by UP ATS in Lucknow in February 2021 with arms and explosives) had received more than Rs 3 lakh from PFI (during 2018 to 2021) for criminal activities.
The officials said the PFI's accountant during investigation, in the aftermath of Delhi riots, told his interrogators that PFI's headquarters at Shaheen Bagh, Delhi kept crores of unaccounted money, which they use without any accountability.
Many cases of Hawala money transactions were being investigated by various law enforcement agencies against PFI.