Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Thursday arrested 20 activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) in the state as part of a nation-wide multi-agency operation. The accused were indulging in unlawful activities, promoting enmity among communities and waging a war against the country, an ATS official said. Across the country, the multi-agency operation led by the National Investigation Agency resulted in the arrest of 106 PFI activists in 11 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country, officials said.
In Maharashtra, raids were conducted by various ATS teams in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Aurangabad, Pune, Kolhapur, Beed, Parbhani, Nanded, Malegaon (in Nashik district) and Jalgaon, an official said. The ATS teams arrested at least 20 people from various places and seized important documents, he said. The anti-terror agency registered four offences in Mumbai, Nashik, Aurangabad and Nanded under Indian Penal Code sections including 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 121A (waging war against the government) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) besides provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). A court in Mumbai remanded five of the accused in ATS custody till September 26.
The PFI was formed in 2006 in Kerala and is headquartered in Delhi. It claims to strive for a neo-social movement ostensibly for the empowerment of marginalised sections of India. It is, however, often accused by law enforcement agencies of promoting radical Islam. The organization held a press conference in Pune to condemn what it termed as "unjust arrests and the harassment" of its leaders and the "witch-hunt" against its supporters. The NIA's claims were baseless, it added.