"This is nothing but prevention of the right to democratic protests against the central government's witch-hunt targeting PFI and is quite natural and expected under this autocratic system," says Popular Front of India.

The PFI has supported causes like street protests against a 2019 citizenship law that many Muslims see as discriminatory.
The PFI has supported causes like street protests against a 2019 citizenship law that many Muslims see as discriminatory. (Reuters Archive)

Indian authorities have declared the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its affiliates an "unlawful association" with immediate effect, banning it for five years.

This comes after the authorities detained scores of members of the Muslim organisation on Tuesday and earlier in the month, accusing them of violence and anti-national activities.

The PFI has condemned the series of detentions and related raids as harassment and held street protests.

"This is nothing but prevention of the right to democratic protests against the central government's witch-hunt targeting PFI and is quite natural and expected under this autocratic system," PFI said on Twitter after what it called "massive arrests".

Police in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh said they detained 57 persons linked to the PFI on Tuesday because of "violent acts conducted by them and their rising anti-national activities across the country".

Similar detentions were made in the northeastern state of Assam, its chief minister told reporters, days after he asked for a ban on the PFI.

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Muslim marginalisation 

Earlier this month, the federal National Investigation Agency raided locations in the states of Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and detained some PFI members, accusing them of organising training camps to "commit terrorist acts" or being involved in "anti-national activities".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing party has been accused by rights groups and foreign governments of championing discriminatory policies towards India's 200-million-strong Muslim minority since coming to power in 2014.

Hardline Hindu groups have long campaigned for a ban on PFI, which has denied accusations it is an extremist organisation.

But several of its members have been convicted of violence since its inception around 15 years ago.

Thirteen people linked to the group were jailed in 2015 for hacking off the hand of a university lecturer accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad five years earlier.

The group was involved in galvanising 2019 protests against a controversial law that grants citizenship to some applicants from India's neighbours, but excludes Muslims.

Earlier this year, the group was also accused of organising street protests against a state ban on the wearing of hijabs by Muslim students in Karnataka.

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Source: Reuters