India bans Muslim group PFI, accuses it of ‘terrorism’


India declared the Popular Front of India Muslim group and its affiliates unlawful on Wednesday, accusing them of involvement in terrorism and banning them for five years, after authorities detained more than 100 PFI members this month.

The PFI said it had dissolved itself and asked its members to stop their activities.

“As law-abiding citizens of our great country, the organisation accepts the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs,” the PFI’s branch in Kerala state, where it has a big presence, said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the PFI denied accusations of violence and anti-national activities when its offices were raided and dozens of its members were detained in various states.

The home ministry, in announcing the ban, said in a statement the PFI and its affiliates had “been found to be involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up”.

The PFI’s now-banned student wing, the Campus Front of India, called the government action a political vendetta and propaganda. It denied the accusations of involvement in terrorism.

Muslims account for 13 per cent of India’s 1.4 billion people and many have complained of marginalisation under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi’s party denies accusations of discrimination against Muslims and points to data it says shows that all Indians irrespective of religion are benefiting from the government focus on economic development and social welfare.

The PFI has supported causes such as protests against a 2019 citizenship law that many Muslims deem discriminatory, as well as protests in the southern state of Karnataka this year demanding the right for Muslim women students to wear the hijab in class.

The ban is likely to stir an outcry among opponents of the government, which retains broad public support and a comfortable majority in parliament eight years after Modi first became prime minister.—Reuters

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