The Hindu Nationalist government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) in September 2022. The government accused the organization of indulging in “terror activities” and radicalizing Muslim youth to “subvert” democracy, a claim vehemently denied by its member and other activists. However, the ban is yet to pass the test of judicial scrutiny and whether the invocation of the draconian terror law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), is justified or not. Hundreds of members and activists linked to the organization were arrested across 20 Indian states, including Abdullah Saood Ansari.
The BJP government has already set the narrative to strangle the democratic participation of religious minorities. PFI identifies itself as a neo-social movement with the intent of providing constitutional safeguards to oppressed and traditionally marginalized communities.
Human rights groups have demanded the revocation of the ban, terming it an undemocratic display of power. The critics pointed out that the right-wing government’s approach toward Muslim identity is hostile and totalitarian.
Circumstances of Arrest
Saood Ansari, 24, is a computer science graduate. According to the media reports, Ansari received a scholarship in 2017 from the PFI to pursue his education. PFI runs various scholarship programs to uplift marginalized communities.
On July 6, 2022, when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, was visiting Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Ansari was summoned by Lohta police in the city and detained till the evening for his connections with PFI. He was threatened with dire consequences.
Ansari filed a complaint against the unlawful detention to the Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission. Subsequently, the officers were transferred. The arrest is the consequence of his complaint. His sister Nousheen alleged, “They recovered the copy of the complaint and heckled him over it in the station. He was told he would pay for his action“.
On September 30, he was arrested in Varanasi, UP, under the stringent law UAPA. According to the Police, Ansari was engaged in “unlawful Activities” and was “dangerous” to society.
His Lawyer suggests that the evidence gathered doesn’t meet the requirements for booking under the stringent UAPA and that the allegations are fabricated.
Charges and Allegations
Section 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion), 153-B (Assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the Indian Penal Code, and sections 7, 8, and 13 of UAPA.
The local court rejected Ansari’s bail on October 19, 2022.