India declared the Popular Front of India (PFI) Islamic group and its affiliates unlawful on Wednesday, accusing them of involvement in "terrorism" and banning them for five years, after authorities detained more than 100 PFI members this month.
The group's office number listed on its website was out of service and it did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. On Tuesday, it denied accusations of violence and anti-national activities when its offices were raided and dozens of members detained in various states.
"The Popular Front of India and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been found to be involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up," the Ministry of Home Affairs alleged in a statement.
Muslims account for 13% of India's 1.4 billion people and many have complained of marginalisation under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Modi's party denies the accusations, claiming that all Indians irrespective of religion are benefiting from the government's focus on economic development and social welfare.
The ban is likely to stir an outcry among opponents of the government, which retains broad public support and a comfortable majority in parliament eight years after Modi first became prime minister.
The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which works with the PFI on some issues but was not included in the ban, said the government had struck a blow against democracy and human rights.
"Freedom of speech, protests and organisations have been ruthlessly suppressed by the regime against the basic principles of the Indian constitution," the SDPI said in a statement on Twitter.
"The regime is misusing the investigation agencies and laws to silence the opposition and to scare the people from expressing the voice of dissent. An undeclared emergency is clearly visible in the country."
Some SDPI office were raided and some of its members were detained this month.
The PFI has supported causes like protests against a 2019 citizenship law that many Muslims deem discriminatory, as well as protests in the southern state of Karnataka this year demanding the right for Muslim women students to wear the hijab in class.
The government said in a notification it had banned the PFI and affiliates Rehab India Foundation, Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.
The government claimed that it found a "number of instances of international linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups", adding that some of its members had joined Islamic State and participated in "terror activities" in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The PFI came together in late 2006 and was launched formally the next year with the merger of three organisations based in south India.
It calls itself a "social movement striving for total empowerment" on its website.