After yet another accusation linking the organisation to funding anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests was carried out by the media, Popular Front of India (PFI) has slammed the reports, asking the government to prove the charges against it.
In a fresh attempt to link the organisation with the ongoing nationwide anti-CAA agitation, an unsigned note by the central government’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) emerged on social media that alleged the PFI had mobilised money to fund the protests and the ED had tracked bank accounts to back this charge. The ED note had also named some senior lawyers including Kapil Sibal and Dushyant Dave as recipients of the funds.
In a rebuttal issued soon after the ED note emerged on Monday, PFI general secretary Mohammed Ali Jinnah rejected the ED’s effort to link the group to the protests as “totally baseless”. The same was also repeated by the organisation’s Secretary Anis Ahmed in a video statement.
“Firstly, the news channels have attributed the report to Enforcement Directorate through some “unnamed sources” but the ED has not contacted our organization, nor the ED has issued any such official statement regarding these allegations,” the statement said.
On the charge that Rs. 120 crore had been channelled through 73 bank accounts, PFI said it was fully compliant with all the laws. The allegation that crores were transferred from the Popular Front’s accounts just before the CAA protest “is totally baseless and the people who are levelling these allegations should prove these claims”.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah also dismissed the ED for its claims that the group had transferred money to senior lawyers such as Dushyant Dave around the time of the protests.
“The truth is that transfers were made in 2017 as a lawyer fees for these advocates for the Hadiya Case. This transfer was openly declared by Popular Front in various public meetings. Attributing the transfer of a fee that happened in 2017 as funding for 2019 CAA protest is totally absurd and exposes the intention to defame Popular Front,” the statement said.
Responding to allegations against him, Senior Congress leader and Supreme Court lawyer Kapil Sibal rejected allegations that he was paid by PFI as part of a conspiracy to fund protests against CAA.
Sibal admitted the existence of money transfers from PFI to his accounts but said that was for lawyer fees owed to him for the Hadiya case.
“The first bill was raised on August 4, 2017. Last bill on March 8, 2018. All payments were received before March 2018,” Sibal said.
Fellow lawyer Indira Jaising, on the other hand, “completely and vehemently” denied receiving “any money” from PFI “at any point of time”. Jaising also denied receiving any money from anybody in connection with the anti-CAA protests.
My statement denying receipt of money from PFI in relation to anti CAA protests or for any other reason or purpose whatsoever. @PTI_News @ZeeNews @ndtv @CNNnews18 @LiveLawIndia @barandbench @AltNews @scroll_in @thewire_in @the_hindu pic.twitter.com/HM1ECWDmxI
— Indira Jaising (@IJaising) January 27, 2020
Dushyant Davel made a similar point in his rebuttal, underlining that the only case that he could recollect where a Muslim organisation was involved was Kerala’s Hadiya case “where ultimately the Supreme Court was embarrassed after ordering NIA investigation when she said I want to be with my husband”.
The PFI statement said another allegation levelled at them relates to transfer of funds to Popular Front’s Kashmir Wing. The group said it did not have a wing in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We challenge the so-called “Unnamed Sources” to prove that there is any wing of Popular Front working in Kashmir. Popular Front carried out extensive flood relief work in Kashmir in 2014 and built more than 100 houses for the flood victims which was also openly declared by the organization in 2014 itself through official publications.
“Assigning the 2014 flood relief as 2019 anti-CAA protest funding makes it clear that there is a planned vilification campaign going on against Popular Front to stop our growth,” it said.
Ever since the start of the anti-CAA protests, which is swelling across the country, the BJP-led central government and various other BJP-led state governments have accused the organisation of funding the protestors.
The Uttar Pradesh government had accused the group of orchestrating the violence that erupted in the state in the wake of the anti-CAA-NRC protests and even arrested 25 of its members, including its state president, Wasim Ahmad. The Ajay Singh Bisht (Yogi Adityanath) government had even sent a proposal seeking a ban on PFI accusing the organisation was involved in anti-national activities.
However, 19 members of those arrested, Wasim Ahmad, was released on bail after the police failed to produce any substantial evidence against the activists.
PFI’s Assam State President Aminul Haque and Office Secretary Muzammel Hoque, who were arrested last month, after the police accused them of similar allegations of conspiring, planning and facilitating the anti-CAA violence in Assam were too released after the police failed to produce any evidence against them.
PFI, on its part, has maintained that the government and sections of the media are merely trying to malign the organisation without any concrete proof.