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NIA To Narrow Down on PFI in Southern States, Police Departments Caught Unawares

NIA held searches in 38 locations in AP and Telangana, in what is being called the beginning of a larger exercise.

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is on a hunt to 'expose' the Popular Front of India's 'expansion' in four southern states – Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. According to a senior level NIA official, the recent widespread searches in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are only the beginning of a "widespread crackdown" on the Muslim outfit's operations in the southern states, The Quint has learnt.

However, the NIA has not yet established any link between the organisation and the two murders of Harsha Jingade and Praveen Nettaru in Karnataka. The information collected from the outfit is going to be included in dossiers which will then be relayed to the Union government, the NIA source said.

In the recent past NIA has cracked down on several activities of the outfit which were first reported by various state police departments.

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NIA To Pick Up Cases of State Police Departments?

The searches on 18 September which were conducted in 38 locations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, were based on a case filed by the Telangana police against four persons for allegedly holding an physical training camp Nizamabad district. As per the remand report submitted by the NIA in this case it is being accused that PFI members were given training to use weapons including knives and sticks.

The NIA, as per a press release, has now accused the PFI of "organising camps to impart training to commit terrorist acts and to promote enmity between different groups on the basis of religion."

A total of 27 persons in AP and Telangana are under the organisation's scrutiny, the official said. The PFI, meanwhile, has called this a witch hunt with several leaders of the outfit accusing the Union government of clamping down on Muslim outfit.
NIA held searches in 38 locations in AP and Telangana, in what is being called the beginning of a larger exercise.

A PFI conference being held in Kerala

However, what is striking is that there could be similar crackdowns in other southern states including Karnataka and Kerala. "We have credible information that some of the local units of the outfit have to be monitored," the high ranking official at NIA said. Interestingly, the NIA held searches at PFI offices in 10 states including Karnataka on 21 and 22 September.

A Telangana police officer, however, said, "There is very little that we know about the direction that NIA searches are taking. The agency is known to spring searches without alerting local police."

In the past year the NIA had picked up several cases where PFI links were actively probed. Interestingly, most of these cases were those that the state police departments had handed over the central agency due to political pressure.

In some cases, including the 2021 searches in Kerala's northern districts, the NIA looked into the activities of the organisation while probing a case related to activities of ISIS.

In 2021, Malapuram, Kannur, Kollam, Kasargode districts of Kerala had witnessed NIA searches. In 2022, however, the focus has been on states of Karnataka, AP, and Telangana, the official said.

As there have been demands to ban the outfit in Karnataka, following protests of several Hindutva groups, the NIA will have to collate all activities of the outfit from across south India to ensure a comprehensive report is submitted to the Centre, a senior police official of Karnataka, who is in the know, said.

"The demand to ban the outfit is often met with lukewarm response from several states because no links have yet been established between PFI's activities across police jurisdictions and state borders," the senior police officer said.

This year, following the murder of a Bajrang Dal worker Harsha Jingade's murder in Shivamogga district, there was an attempt to track the PFI's activities in Karnataka. Similarly, after the murder of BJP Yuva Morcha leader Praveen Nettaru's murder the file on PFI was reopened.

"We have not yet established any links with the murders and the PFI. The NIA is looking into these cases. But based on the enquiries for cooperation that we have been getting, the scope of their investigation seems to go beyond these unfortunate incidents," the senior officer from Karnataka said.

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Missing Links and Alleged 'Baseless Allegations'

What has been a dampener for the NIA is that no PFI members were found to have direct links other incidents of violence of suspicion they have been investigating in connection with cases in the rest of India.

"The investigation is trying to establish a pan-India connection between PFI workers and we are moving forward with this," the NIA official said. The NIA is expected to establish links between various cases where PFI members are implicated. When asked why these alleged links have not yet been revealed, the official refused comment.

Meanwhile, PFI office bearers have been stating that the organisation has been under scrutiny for taking up socially relevant issues including CAA and NRC protests.

NIA held searches in 38 locations in AP and Telangana, in what is being called the beginning of a larger exercise.
NIA conducts raids at 23 locations in PFI case.
"Members of the outfit used to get visits from state intelligence officials in Karnataka whenever there were anti-CAA and NRC protests in 2020. The practice is still going on where random house calls are being made," a state-level leader of PFI said.

In AP and Telangana, where the outfit now stands accused of holding an arms training camp, state police were the first to crackdown, a leader said. "The state police too have been conducting illegal searches at the homes of workers. This is clearly an attempt to intimidate," the PFI leader said. Meanwhile, PFI's national leadership has already condemned the NIA searches which were held amid protests in AP and Telangana.

"The NIA has been building a narrative that the case in Telangana is terror linked. This is baseless and is being used to target the rights of minorities to peacefully protest," Elamaram Naseeruddin, PFI's national secretary told reporters.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Telangana   Andhra Pradesh    KARNATAKA 

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