NEW DELHI (AA) – Indian investigation agencies arrested 45 people associated with a Muslim organization in “anti-terror” raids across the country on Thursday, officials said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted a joint search operation across the country against the Popular Front of India, according to a statement issued by the NIA in the evening.
The Indian government has accused the front of having links to “terrorist” organizations.
The group, which describes itself as a “neo-social movement that strives for the empowerment of marginalized sections of India”, denies the charge.
“NIA carried out searches in 93 locations of 15 states of India viz Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar, and Manipur,” the statement said.
It stated that searches were carried out at the houses and offices of the front’s top leaders and members in connection with five cases filed by the agency “following continued inputs and evidence that the PFI (front) leaders and cadres were involved in the funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organizing training camps for providing armed training, and radicalizing people to join banned organizations.”
Earlier, local media had reported that over 100 top leaders and functionaries associated with the group were apprehended during the nationwide raids.
However, according to the official statement, 45 arrests have been made in these cases.
“19 accused have been arrested from Kerala, 11 have been arrested from Tamil Nadu, 7 from Karnataka, 4 from Andhra Pradesh, 2 from Rajasthan, 1 each from UP and Telangana,” it said, adding that the agency is currently investigating 19 cases involving the group.
In a statement, the front’s national executive council condemned the raids, calling the arrests “unjust” and “harassments of its national and state leaders.”
According to the statement, the NIA’s “baseless claims and sensationalism are solely aimed at creating an atmosphere of terror.”
The front will never be “intimidated by such scare tactics by a totalitarian regime that uses the central agencies as its puppets,” it alleged.
It said the organization will remain steadfast in its stance and struggle to restore the “democratic values and spirit of our beloved country’s constitution.”
After Thursday’s action, members of the front staged protests in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, an Indian Islamic organization, has “condemned the raids and crackdown” on the front’s leadership and offices.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind is deeply concerned about the NIA and ED raids on the offices and leaders of the Popular Front of India (PFI), said Syed Sadatullah Husaini, president of the organization, in a statement.
“Agencies like NIA can investigate people against whom they have clear evidence, but such actions should appear unbiased and free from political motivation,” he stated.
The raids have also been condemned by Moideen Kutty Faizy, president of the Social Democratic Party of India. “The nationwide raids in the residence of leaders are the affirmative sign of the efforts to stifle the dissenting voices,” he said.