Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, which grabbed the headlines in December 2019 due to the anti-CAA protests, again drew the attention of investigating agencies as the Centre cracked the whip on Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associates during the last couple of weeks.
On September 28, the Centre banned the PFI and its associates or affiliates for a period of five years. The move came following country-wide raids on the PFI by law enforcement agencies.
After the Centre banned PFI, heavy police presence was witnessed outside the PFI office in the Shaheen Bagh area on Wednesday as the notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs came out during the early morning hours. Delhi Police were extra vigilant to prevent any untoward incident because of the ban on the PFI. Apart from police patrolling in the area, drones were also pressed into service to keep an eye over Shaheen Bagh.
The police had already imposed Section 144 in the entire Jamia Nagar area under which unlawful assembly of four or more people is prohibited.
The sources in the intelligence agencies have confirmed that PFI through its three offices based in Shaheen Bagh was controlling pan-India operations. The members of PFI working at these offices were also found to be influencing local Muslim youth.
"They had been befriending young gullible Muslim population since the beginning. Initially, there was only one office of PFI in Shaheen Bagh. Later, it opened two more offices in the area. They basically spread their base in the area by associating with the local Muslim youth," said an intelligence source.
According to information received, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Vinay Kumar Saxena, has written to Delhi Police Commissioner Sanjay Arora to seal the three offices of PFI in Shaheen Bagh.
"The PFI has three offices at F30/1B Zaid Apartment, Ground Floor; N44A/1 Hilal House, Ground Floor; and B 27/2 Tihri Manjil, Zamia. From these three places, the outfit was allegedly carrying out illegal and anti-national activities. Now we are sealing them," an official said.
Interrogation of PFI members by different law enforcement agencies have revealed that it used to identify Muslim youth, especifically from poor or middle class backgrounds, who were then instilled with anti-Hindutva ideology. They were also imparted training.
However, Delhi Police have become more alert now, particularly after the prolonged anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh which continued for over three months.
While the protests had started in mid-December, 2019, it continued till the Covid pandemic broke out in the last week of March 2020.
As per police sources, the PFI had funded the anti-CAA protests across the city as part of a planned conspiracy to spark communal violence in North-East Delhi.
Delhi Police had also arrested PFI state president and its secretary in March 2020 for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to incite communal riots in several parts of Delhi.
The arrests came days after an FIR was registered against unknown persons in connection with the riots in North-East Delhi.