Exposed: How the banned Popular Front of India avoids the ban in Karnataka


PFI network is still working closely with presidents of local shrines and message organisations.

Despite being outlawed in September of last year, the Popular Front of India (PFI) appears to have discovered means to avoid the prohibition and continue operations in Karnataka, according to an India Media investigation.

PFI and eight of its associates were banned for five years by the Union Home Ministry due to security and terror ties.

Six months later, an investigation by India Media revealed that PFI cadre had seemingly reunited physically and electronically, with many of them merging into the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), widely assumed to be the outlawed outfit’s political branch.

Online And Physical Regrouping

Chand Pasha, the PFI’s Chikkamagaluru district president for three years prior to the measure’s implementation, told India Media’s investigative reporter that he is mobilising cadre on the ground and giving video diktats on WhatsApp in order to enforce his will on Muslim voters in the area.

“We are the PFI folks”. We have members, a cadre, and well-wishers. We have regular debates about who should be supported. (in the elections). We enquire about the successful candidates. We are completely opposed to the BJP. He said, “We want to defeat the BJP”.

Pasha admitted that the PFI network is still working closely with presidents of local shrines and message organisations.

“When we post a single video on WhatsApp, thousands of people watch it. We don’t have to meet up with all of those members in person”, he said, adding, “There are 30-50 mosques in this area”.

“Ten to fifteen mosque presidents have formed 10-15 groups each. If we need to make a point or voice an objection, we do so via WhatsApp”, he added.

Applying SDPI As A Proxy

Pasha confirmed that roughly 70% to 80% of the PFI’s membership in the Chikkamagaluru district is still active. He asserted that the cadre of the illegal group had transferred to the SDPI.

Some PFI members are members of the SDPI. And some SDPI members are PFI members. Everyone is not present (at the PFI) since it is a Muslim-only organization, but the SDPI includes Hindus and Dalits.

Asif, the SDPI’s in-charge of the Moodbidri Assembly constituency in Karnataka’s coastal district of Dakshina Kannada, confirmed Pasha’s allegations that the PFI cadre had blended seamlessly into the party.

“Let me tell you off the record that the PFI cadre is now the SDPI cadre”, he told a reporter from India Today.

He went on to say that the PFI cadre are unidentified. “They do their work in the background. Arrests are not possible. They don’t have any proof. If I belong to the PFI, for example, there is no documentation to prove it. In the PFI, there was no such procedure for granting IDs”.

Asif further revealed that the SDPI, which includes PFI activists, receives financial support from the Gulf region.

“We have the full support of the Gulf. They (our financiers) would tell us to collect their remittances from their contacts’ homes here”, Asif explained.

The PFI was claimed to have many wings – women, students, and politicians – with a major presence in Karnataka and Kerala. Security experts warn that the outlawed group should not be allowed to develop a political footing through the back door.

“The government rightfully banned the PFI because of its anti-India agenda”. However, it should not be permitted to operate under a different name/banner in the future”, said Dr SP Vaid, a former DGP of Jammu and Kashmir.

“It is critical that the election commission, the judiciary, the government, and law enforcement agencies thwart PFI’s attempt to gain political power in the country. The security agencies must provide evidence about the SDPI to the election commission”, Vaid remarked.

The SDPI, which has been registered as a political party since 2010, has publicly distanced itself from the PFI.

Following the ban on the Popular Front of India, Rajiv Kumar, the Chief Election Commissioner, informed India Media in October that there was no evidence to corroborate assertions that the SDPI and the PFI were linked.

“We are aware of legal action being taken against the PFI. The SDPI has supplied the required documentation. As of now, no link has been established between the PFI and the SDPI, necessitating action”, the CEC stated.

PFI Links Are accepted by SDPI Insiders

However, SDPI leaders were captured on camera on camera acknowledging that the party had absorbed activists from the proscribed organisation. When questioned, Muneeb Bengre, an SDPI corporator in the Mangaluru City Corporation, admitted that PFI activists are now working under the banner of his party.

“They’ve arrived. After the ban, it is no longer the PFI. They have arrived at the SDPI. They are our members and supporters. “They’re all working,” he added, adding that “that cadre isn’t working with PFI identity, but it’s working for our SDPI”.

Bengre said that because of their combined strength, both organisations were as powerful as the RSS.

After an hour’s trip north to Udupi, Nazir, another SDPI office bearer, confirmed that the PFI base is still in place.

“It hasn’t been shaken. Cadres aren’t going away any time soon. Young males who have not received training shake. However, we are fully trained from the start”, he explained.

After an hour’s trip north to Udupi, Nazir, another SDPI office bearer, confirmed that the PFI base is still in place.

“I’m not sure if they (PFI cadre) are attacking leaders (of other right-wing groups), but there’s always fear – the PFI is highly feared,” he boasted.

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