Post September 11 attacks of 2001, there had been a spurt in Islamic terror related activities, than noticed before especially in the aftermath of US military involvement in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda and Taliban being the main targets, many youth who had gone astray, got romanticised with these terror groups and avowed to fight the Western forces with religion as their motivational and driving force. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan saw a definite inclination by those leaning towards religious extremism to keep the tenets of religion uppermost in their agenda.
Importantly, there was not a single balanced leader on the horizon at that critical juncture to rein in those forces going adrift in the direction of mindless violence. There was little or no control by the State as well.
Amidst such a developing scenario, in 2006 an outfit by the name of Popular Front of India (PFI) came into being. Soon after its commencement, it claimed the support of the National Development Front, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and few other bodies including Neethi Parsai, giving a facade of a civilised and innocuous look. It also sold the idea of doing a lot for the downtrodden. However, very soon, it was alleged that its mask of civility got blown over. According to knowledgable quarters, allegations were soon afoot that PFI was complicit in hate crimes including in murder, kidnapping, extortion and even in gun running.
Allegations also gained currency that in the name of Zakat and other pursuits of charity, there was a fund collection drive in an organised manner. Disturbingly, one of the PFI cadres while disclosing to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) about the gathering of money, revealed that money stashed was also used to support the anti CAA agitation which had its hub in Shaheen Bagh.
Earlier, in the district of Mangalore in the state of Karnataka, a cadre called Sadiq was involved in assassination attempt on a National Security Guard (NSG) commando responsible for the security and protection of senior ruling party (BJP) leader, LK Advani.
Meanwhile, in pursuit of its political agenda, it floated Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and it contested elections too in Rajasthan in 2013 bagging a few seats in the Assembly. Its influence, though limited, remains only in the Mysore region of Karnataka and in Tamil Nadu.
With the advent of ISIS and large scale radicalisation, and ongoing pro IS and pro Al Qaeda propaganda, especially abusing the cyber space, PFI activities looked akin to the agenda pursued by the IS and other religious extremist organisations supporting hate through venomous publicity campaign. It now stands completely exposed as an outfit, which is brazenly against secularism. On the contrary, it has come to fore for preaching radicalisation. Fortunately many, particularly in India, and in its neighbourhood, have not fallen into the allurement trap of the PFI preventing them from the menace of communalism and violence.
In the meantime, there are also charges levelled by PDF’s detractors that the outfit receives funding from Turkey and Qatar suspected to be originating from the epicentres of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) for possible radicalisation. Such activities call for constant check and monitoring lest they get the better of the security agencies.
Further, the youth who may be confused by the sustained PDF sponsored propaganda and briefings, are being continuously told by the saner, mature and responsible elements and progressive outfits of the Islamic community to refrain from such baseless tirade and shun PFI in the larger interests of national integrity and peace. In view of these, PDF is seen to be running out of steam and losing credibility.
(Writer is a security analyst and a freelance columnist. The views expressed are personal.)