Although the ban on the Islamist Popular Front of India has been debated within the national security establishment since the 2010 hand chop case of Kerala college lecturer TJ Joseph, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah bit the bullet and proscribed the organisation and its affiliates this morning.
The groundwork for the ban was prepared since the NIA raided 93 PFI locations in 15 states on 22 September followed by country-wide state police raids on the organisation that was radicalising Muslim youth towards extremism.
The PFI with its links with pan-Islamist organisations and Sunni terrorist groups like Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaida and Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba was the force behind the organisation of anti-CAA protests against the Modi government, which led to rioting in states including Delhi.
While Saudi Arabia and UAE have banned Muslim Brotherhood, the PFI was principally getting funds from Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey with the Brotherhood providing the fire cover by using one of the major English media channels to blame the Modi government for being anti-minorities.
While PM Modi was in Japan for the state funeral of his departed friend Shinzo Abe and HM Shah was in Gujarat addressing election rallies, the bureaucratic team led by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, intelligence chiefs and enforcement chiefs prepared the groundwork for the ban notification.
The decision to ban the organisation was taken by the principals before the PM left for Japan and Amit Shah went to Gujarat. NSA Ajit Doval, who normally accompanies the PM on foreign trips, was tasked to stay behind and oversee the legal paperwork with inputs from the intelligence chiefs.
The paperwork was accompanied by nationwide raids by state police since the NIA and ED raids on 22 September.
Given the spread of PFI and its affiliates in India and their plug into global jihad networks, Home Minister Amit Shah, who has studied the SIMI and Indian Mujahideen movements as Gujarat Home Minister, has been focused on the pan-Islamist organisation since he joined the Modi government in 2019.
The role of the PFI as an ideological radicalizer and instigator of violence against the majority community came to the fore during the anti-CAA agitation, Delhi riots and more recent savage beheading of Udaipur tailor and Amravati pharmacist for blasphemy as the accused were found to have links with this pan-Islamist organisation.
Rather than take steps in hurry, the banning of PFI was preceded by hard collection, collation, and analysis of data by the Indian intelligence agencies. Proper dossiers were prepared by the internal intelligence agency for enforcement agencies like the NIA and ED to execute.
The raids preceding the ban were conducted in a flawless manner with the entire PFI top leadership caught unawares and picked up in a single swoop.
The fact is that the PFI leadership may have been surprised by the raid, but they were expecting the Modi government to move in this direction for the past two months. It is for this reason that there was hardly any cash or weapon recovery.
National security planners know that a ban on PFI will not wipe out the organisation as the cadres will morph into another Islamist outfit to carry out their global agenda. However, the ban will disrupt the organisation and starve the Islamist outfit of funds for at least two to three years. The fight with PFI and extremists is a never-ending one.