Home India News ‘Operation Octopus’: How crackdown on PFI was planned and executed

‘Operation Octopus’: How crackdown on PFI was planned and executed

Special Correspondent | TwoCircles.net

New Delhi: A list of alleged members and sympathizers of the now banned and dissolved Popular Front of India (PFI) was prepared; their addresses were discreetly verified, and current locations traced. Intelligence inputs were gathered and heavy deployments were made accordingly. Several teams of the Delhi Police Special Cell were formed to zero in on the PFI across six districts — including Nizamuddin and Shaheen Bagh — of the national capital. Now, the stage was set for coordinated action.

Around 3 am on September 27 the city police’s anti-terror wing launched Operation Octopus and arrested and detained 30 people — nine from Jamia Nagar and Nizamuddin in Southeast district, six each from Rohini and East Delhi districts, five from northeast Delhi, and one from Central Delhi.

It was a part of the second round of massive raids against the PFI suspects across the country that took the total number of arrests/detentions so far to over 250. In the first round of multi-agency operations headed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on September 22 at 93 locations in 15 states, around 108 alleged PFI workers from across the country.

The outfit is being investigated by the NIA and the ED for its alleged role in terror activities and terrorism-linked funding.

Families of the majority of the 12 people arrested from southeast Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh alleged they have not so far been supplied with copies of the first information report (FIR); therefore, they don’t know the charges under which the detentions have been made.

“Four policemen knocked at our gate at around 3 am on September 27. As the gate was opened, they caught hold of him (the suspect) and whisked him away without even informing us who they were, the so-called crime committed, and where he was being taken. We were not shown any papers, authorizing the cops to pick him up. There was heavy police force outside the building,” a relative of one of the accused told TwoCircles.net without wishing to be named.

He said he went to Shaheen Bagh police station to know about the whereabouts of his relatives but to no avail.

“Then I checked with my sources, one of whom informed me to go to Lajpat Nagar police station. I reached there at 4 am. Initially, they refused to share anything but later they asked me to go to another police station where he would be presented before a duty magistrate. I was also assured that the arrest has been made under two minor sections of the IPC and that he would be released from the police station only. When I reached there, I saw a police van arriving there with all the 12 who were picked up. The van was parked in the police station premises in such a way that we do not see who is de-boarding it,” he narrated, alleging that the accused was remanded to judicial custody for seven days without listening to the defense side.

He claimed his lawyer was neither briefed about the charges nor provided with a copy of the order of the duty magistrate.

Others corroborated the sequence of the events, alleging that they too have no information about why their people have been picked up and jailed.

The Supreme Court in the DK Basu Vs State of West Bengal had issued detailed guidelines on arrests and detentions that say all police personnel should wear name tags indicating their name and designation, an arrest memo (containing signatures of the arrested person and any relative of his her relative or any respectable person of the locality and date, time and place of arrest) has to be prepared by the police officer making the arrest, relative or friend of the arrested person has to be properly informed about the reasons of the detention and the place where he is being kept in custody and the police cannot deny the arrestee access to his or her lawyer.

Apart from Kerala, the stronghold of the outfit, which has witnessed 22 arrests, the maximum number of people have been apprehended from Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states. More than 70 alleged PFI activists are reported to have been taken into custody from Karnataka. It was followed by Maharashtra (43), Delhi (30), Assam (25), Madhya Pradesh (21), and Gujarat (15).

Around 2,000 are said to be under scanner in Madhya Pradesh.

With six arrests on September 27, 11 suspected PFI members and sympathizers have been picked from Uttar Pradesh.

Searches have also been carried out in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar, and Manipur.

In addition to all top leadership of the PFI, several others who have been arrested have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA after the Centre directed states and Union Territories (UTs) to “exercise” powers of the stringent legislation against the outfit and its affiliates.

Following the crackdown, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on September 28 banned the PFI and organizations affiliated with it for five years, declaring them “unlawful association”, under the UAPA.

The PFI and its affiliates, according to the MHA’s notification, have “links with global terror organisation” and were involved in several “terror cases”, with an “intent to create a reign of terror in the country — endangering the security and public order of the state”.

Hours after the Centre banned the outfit and its affiliates, the PFI announced the disbanding of the organisation.

PFI State General Secretary A Abdul Sattar said in a statement that the organisation was “dissolved” after the MHA issued a notification banning it. “As law-abiding citizens of the country, we accept the decision of the Home Ministry,” he added.

“The PFI has been working with a clear vision for the socio-economic and cultural empowerment of the underprivileged, downtrodden, and marginalised sections of the society for the past three decades. But as law-abiding citizens of our great country, the organisation accepts the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It also informs all its former members and the general public that the Popular Front of India has been disbanded. All members of the Popular Front of India are requested to cease their activities since the publication of the notification,’’ he said in the statement.

Among those who have been arrested from the national capital is a Delhi University student, a preacher of the holy Quran, and one who runs a publishing house in Daryahanj — printing Urdu literature. In addition, they include activists and alleged “sympathizers”.

Sources in the Delhi Police said the operation was “well coordinated” and “discreetly” carried out as part of a “strategy” to set the stage to “ban the PFI” and ensure no protest or violence take place as witnessed in the first phase of the crackdown.

“The first phase of the operation was carried out by the NIA and the ED, but by local police forces,” said one of them.

When asked about the allegations leveled against them by the families of the accused, he rubbished it, saying everything was done “as per the law and laid down procedure”.

More than 1,400 criminal cases had been lodged against the leaders and activists of the PFI and its affiliates across the country over the years, said investigating agencies.