NEW DELHI: A week after raiding its offices followed by large-scale arrests of members, India on Wed­nes­day banned the Popular Front of India (PFI).

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), however, did not act against the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which is considered the PFI’s political arm.

A government official said since SDPI is a recognised political party, registered with the Election Commi­ssion of India (ECI), any act­ion against it would have to be initiated by the commission.

In contrast, the PFI and its associate organisations are registered under the Socie­ties of Registration Act, 1860.

PFI decides to disband itself after the govt move

Though an SDPI functionary told The Hindu they were not connected to PFI, it condemned the ban.

The party said in a statement that the “decision of the Union BJP government banning PFI and its associate organisations is a direct blow on democracy and the rights of people enshrined in Indian Constitution”.

When asked about the government’s charge that SDPI activists were involved in criminal activities, SDPI’s national general secretary Elyas Thumbe said: “Terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur is an elected member of Lok Sabha. There are thousands of members in a political party and the party is not responsible for the criminal activities of its members. Around 43 per cent members in Lok Sabha have a criminal record. Why Congress and BJP are not blamed?”

After the Sept 22 countrywide raids, when 109 members and top leadership of the PFI were arrested, State Home Minister Araga Jnanendra had said it was “the first step towards banning PFI and SDPI”.

Hours after the gazette announced the ban for alleged involvement in terrorism, the group announced its disbanding.

According to news agency PTI, the ban will be followed by a number of actions against the outfit, including seizure of its properties, freezing of bank accounts and a complete prohibition of its usual activities.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2022

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