The Popular Front of India, an extremist Islamic fundamentalist organisation which started in Kerala in 2006 as a successor to the National Development Front, has spread its base in Uttar Pradesh and played a major role in anti-CAA violent protests in the state as well as other places, catching security agencies off guard.
The latest intelligence input shared by the Uttar Pradesh Police with the Central agencies, and under consideration of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), says that the PFI was active in Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Bijnor, Barabanki, Gonda, Bahraich, Varanasi, Azamgarh and Sitapur areas during anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in the state.
The report also describes how the PFI, which acquired a multi-state reach by merging with the National Development Front, Manitha Neethi Pasarai, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and other organisations, has been spreading its base in Uttar Pradesh for the last "two years".
Measures initiated by the then Mayawati government forced the PFI members to leave Uttar Pradesh but they began making inroads into the state in the last two years, says the report.
IANS broke the story on December 16 that the PFI was behind countrywide violent demonstration against the CAA in which as many as 19 people have been killed, over 1,500 arrested and around 5,000 detained since Parliament, on December 11, passed the law.
The Act provides Indian citizenship to six non-Muslim communities -- Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian -- from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who have come to India till December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution. Critics, however, say it discriminates against Muslims and threatens India's secular ethos because it makes religion a criteria for citizenship.
The Uttar Pradesh Police shared its input of the PFI's involvement with Central agencies after it arrested four of its members, accusing them for their involvement in violence during anti-CAA protest, from Meerut on Wednesday, taking the total number of PFI members arrested to 25.
Earlier, the state police had arrested three PFI members from Lucknow and 18 from Shamli following inputs shared by state Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma.
The four PFI members held on Wednesday were identified as Noor Hassan, Abdul Moid, Ajmal and Javed.
It is alleged by the security establishments and various state police organisations that the PFI has links to the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Lashkar-e Taiba and even Al Qaeda.
Uttar Pradesh Police informed Central agencies that the PFI members were held after days of follow-up based on local intelligence units' information.
It said that the PFI activists visit villages and talk about reforms and sufferings of Muslims in India. They also distribute inflammatory pamphlets and books.
"The PFI members were arrested for trying to incite Muslim to violence at Kairana Eidgah," the input says.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has also informed Central agencies that a prominent Muslim cleric, who is associated with the outfit, propagated anti-Indian thoughts in Muzaffarnagar and Meerut and has also been arrested.
The PFI, a militant organisation describe themselves as a neo-social movement committed to empower people to ensure justice, freedom and security, has various wings to cater to different sections of society, including the National Women's Front and the Campus Front of India.
The group claims to work in cooperation with the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations and other human rights activists in a bid to curb human rights violations in India and campaigns for Muslim reservation.
However, in July 2010, Kerala Police seized country-made bombs, weapons, CDs and several documents containing Taliban and Al-Qaeda propaganda from PFI activists.
In 2012, the organisation, which has been accused of various anti-social and anti-national activities, conducted protests against the use of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to detain "innocent citizens".
The Kerala government in 2012 also informed the state High Court of its opinion that the PFI's activities are inimical to the safety of the country and that it is "nothing but a resurrection of the banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in another form", in its argument to ban the organisation's Independence Day programme, dubbed "Freedom Parade.