The now-banned Popular Front of India (PFI) became the face of growing Islamic fundamentalism in Tamil Nadu and it is widely believed that it was involved in several nefarious activities, including murders of several Hindu activists, across the southern state.
According to Tamil Nadu police, several such murders committed in Tamil Nadu have been linked to members of PFI and its earlier forms.
The Coimbatore serial blasts of February 1998 that killed 58 people and injured 200 others, the 1993 RSS office blast in which 11 people lost their lives were all the handiwork of outfits which were the earlier forms of PFI, including the Al-Umma, working on the ideology of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
Taking everybody by surprise, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on September 22 arrested 11 functionaries of PFI from different places in Tamil Nadu.
Those arrested included A.M. Ismail, the national executive member of PFI who was apprehended from Coimbatore. The Dindigul zonal president of the outfit, Yassar Arafat, and the Cuddalore district secretary, Fayas Ahmad, were also among those arrested.
Many parts of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai, Coimbatore, Dindigul, Kanyakumari, Tiruchi, Erode and Salem are considered to be the hub of PFI, which was formed on November 22, 2006, in New Delhi with the merger of the National Development Front (NDF), Karnataka Dignity Forum (KDF) and Manitha Neethi Pasare (MNP).
The Popular Front of India may have professed that it was for the upliftment of Dalits, Backward Classes and Muslims, in reality, the organisation was for the Muslims only with a high dose of Islamic fundamentalism filled in it.
On February 14, 1998, the Coimbatore suicide bomb blasts were carried out against a public meeting of then Deputy Prime Minister and BJP leader L.K. Advani. The serial bomb blasts were planned and executed by Al-Ummah which was led by S.A. Basha, a timber merchant from Coimbatore who turned into an Islamic fundamentalist. He was also involved in the attack on BJP leader Jana Krishnamoorthy and Hindu Munnani leader Ramgopal. They were brutally assaulted, but survived.
Much before the Coimbatore blasts, the RSS Tamil Nadu headquarters in Chennai was bombed in which 11 people lost their lives and seven were grievously injured. It was S.A. Basha who was again the main culprit in this attack.
These are the two major issues on which the Popular Front of India could bank in Tamil Nadu as the state was in a polarised mode between Hindus and Muslims. Popular Front of India took this to the next step with several RSS, and Hindu Munnani activists getting killed and grievously injured in these brutal attacks.
Ramalingam, a native of Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district was killed on February 5, 2019, allegedly by the Popular Front of India and Social Democratic Party of India activists.
The NIA in its charge sheet said that the reason for the murder was that he was involved in their religious propagation activities. The PFI was to terrorize people against anyone interfering in the work of the organisation and hence the murder, it further said.
On July 18, 2014, KPS Suresh Kumar, a Hindu Munnani leader who was the Tiruvallur district president of the outfit was hacked to death by Popular Front activists.
Chartered Accountant Ramesh who was the state general secretary of the BJP was brutally killed by Popular Front activists on July 19, 2013, by banging his head on the wall and breaking his arms and legs, and later slitting his throat.
Police found 23 cuts and a mutilated head.
According to a senior officer with the Tamil Nadu police, around 130 Hindu activists were killed by Islamist fundamentalist outfits in Tamil Nadu over the years with the Popular Front being the main culprit in all the recent murders.
It may be noted that the Manitha Neethi Pasarai or Human Justice Forum which had merged into Popular Front of India when it was formed along with the National Development Front (NDF) of Kerala and Karnataka Dignity Forum (KDF) of Karnataka was involved in several attacks and killings in Tamil Nadu.
V. Ratnasabapathy, an Assistant Commissioner of the Intelligence department of the Tamil Nadu police had reported in August 2006 that Manitha Neethi Pasarai had terror links.
Five youths belonging to the outfit were arrested a month before with IED explosives and weapons and on interrogation, they had revealed the plot to blow up Coimbatore General Hospital, Collectorate, and even the district superintendent of the police office in Coimbatore.
The MNP later leaked out information that of the five, two were neo-converts at their centre, Arivagam in Muthuthevanpatti near Theni.
In 2020 Tamil Nadu police arrested 35 youths from Periyapattanam near Coimbatore for spreading hatred and religious extremism among Muslim youths in radicalizing camps. Police said that they were members of the Popular Front of India.
R. Umesh Das, a professor of social sciences at a government college in Trichy and a researcher on Islamic fundamentalism, told IANS: “The ban on the PFI will lead to its assets being seized and its accounts frozen. However, the ideology cannot be wiped out but the ban if effectively implemented can crush the organisation. They must not be allowed to regroup and take the ideology forward. Police can now crack down on all its sources, both funding and ideology.”