“From CAA to Hijab Row”: Why PFI is Under Police Lens in Assam

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On Thursday, Assam police arrested at least 10 members of PFI including its state general secretary Rabiul Hussain
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Guwahati: From the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to the Cattle Protection Act, the Popular Front of India (PFI) members in Assam were allegedly criticizing all government steps and policies to spread a ‘divisive sentiment’ in the state.

On Thursday, Assam police arrested at least 10 members of PFI including its state general secretary Rabiul Hussain on charges of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence besides criminal conspiracy and assaulting or applying criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty.

Nine other PFI members-Aminul Hoque, Abdul Razzak, Nazrul Islam Bhuyan, Rafiqul Islam, Abu Sama Ahmed, Farhad Ali, Khalilur Rahman, Mufti Rahmatullah and Bazlul Karim were held in a series of raids that the state police have conducted along with National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) in several districts.

“These leaders of the organization were arrested as there is reliable information that they were making all out efforts to foment communal strife throughout the state of Assam. They were indulging in whipping the communal passion and sentiments of the religious minority by criticizing every policy of the Government with communal overtones which include CAA, NRC (National Register of Citizens) and ‘D’-Voter, the new state education policy, cattle protection act., extension of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), TET examination, Agnipath scheme, eviction of encroached government lands with a view to term these actions of the government as an attack on the Muslim community,” said Assam police in an official statement.

In one of ‘biggest ever’ crackdown on terror operations, the NIA and ED sleuths on Thursday conducted raids across 12 states. Most notable among them were multiple offices of radical group PFI and also some individuals for alleged terror links. In the multi-agency raids the sleuths arrested more than 100 PFI activists along with top leaders of the outfit for their alleged support to terror activities.

Police said they were also obstructing the government servants in performing government duty by use of force, while the organisation was trying to conduct several programmes in some districts of Assam by violating prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC.

“The leaders had been extensively using cyber space to provoke the people for defying the government and to divide the society on religious lines and obstructing the government on execution of policies. They were provocating the people against the government with the aim to spread mistrust among public against the government,” said a top official involved in the operation in the state.

According to police, the arrested PFI members were misleading local Muslim youths by taking up issues which occurred outside the state and campaigning through social media platforms.

“These include highlighting arrests made in UP, Bihar, Delhi, challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict on HIJAB issue, Bilkis Bano issue, court verdict on the Gyanvapi mosque, criticising the Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Janambhoomi –Babri Masjid issue, abrogation of Artcile 370 of the Constitution of India. They are organizing protests on such issues in very communally sensitive areas like Badarpur, Karimganj, Barpeta, Baksa, Kamrup(R), Goalpara and Kamrup(M) districts, etc.,” said police sources.

The accused were slapped with charges of spreading communal feelings in Muslim dominated pockets of Barpeta, Goalpara, Badarpur by whipping their sentiments on the issue of communal violence, Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti that took place in Rajasthan.

However, it’s not the first time that PFI has come under scanner in the state. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has been vocal against PFI and seeking its ban.

Earlier, when a mob set Assam’s Batadrava police station ablaze in May, Sarma suspected the hand of PFI behind the incident. “I have requested union home minister Amit Shah to ban the outfit. However, banning an organisation needs several legal measures. I hope the Centre gives this request due consideration,” he said alleging that the organisation has been openly carrying out activities and distributing literature in a bid to destabilise Assam.

However, PFI members have been refuting the charges and condemned the arrests of their members. PFI has also called for a strike on Friday in Kerala in protest of the arrest and blamed the BJP government of misusing NIA act.

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