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The Indian government banned a prominent local Islamic organization Wednesday, accusing it of being a threat to the country’s security, a move that comes amid rising communal tensions in the world’s second most populous nation, Voice of America reported.

The ban targets the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its affiliates and will remain in place for five years. The decision came days after the government launched a nationwide crackdown against the organization and arrested more than 250 of its members.

Officials said that the PFI and its associates have been involved in “serious offenses,” including terrorism, links to global terrorist groups and “pursuing a secret agenda to radicalize a particular section of the society.”

The PFI’s political arm, the Social Democratic Party of India, denied the allegations and called the government’s action a “witch hunt.”

The PFI formed around 15 years ago and has remained mostly confined to the southern states of India. It first gained notoriety when some members were convicted for cutting off the hand of a college professor accused by some Muslim groups of asking derogatory questions about the Islamic Prophet Muhammad on an exam.

However, the organization has gained more prominence since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government came to power eight years ago.

The PFI has been prominent in stoking anti-government protests in recent years, particularly its support for demonstrations against a citizenship law imposed by India in 2019 that critics say discriminates against Muslims.

While many officials welcomed the move, the new ban on the PFI comes as Modi’s government faces allegations of discrimination against Muslims, who make up about 13 percent of the country’s population.

The prime minister and his ruling Bharatiya Janata party have been accused of promoting a Hindu nationalist identity and empowering hardline groups at the expense of the Muslim community, the Financial Times wrote.

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