UP: 3 PFI activists held in connection with violence during anti-CAA protest in Lucknow

Lucknow, Jan 31 (PTI) Three members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested on Friday for their involvement in the December 19 anti-CAA protests in Lucknow which had turned violent, police said.

Shakeel ur Rehman, Shabi Khan and Mohammed Arshad were among the conspirators behind the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act violence that had rocked the state capital, a police spokesperson said in a statement issued here.

The trio were held from Hasanganj Police Station area of the city.

'They were arrested following a tip-off by their associates who were arrested earlier. Shakeel ur Rehman, Shabi Khan and Mohammed Arshad are linked to PFI, and they used to instigate people,' the police said.

On December 31, last year, the Uttar Pradesh Police had sought a ban on the PFI, days after its complicity was suspected in the recent statewide violent protests against the amended citizenship law.

The then Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police O P Singh had said that they had written to the Union Home Ministry, seeking a ban on the PFI after its Uttar Pradesh head, Wasim and 16 other activists were arrested for allegedly masterminding the violence in the state capital.

'We have written to the Union Home Ministry, recommending that the PFI should be banned,' Singh had told reporters here.

Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya had said that the PFI in a way was the 'incarnation' of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) -- an organisation banned by the government in 2001 for allegedly being involved in a series of terror acts in the country.

Stressing that PFI's role has been 'established' in vandalism in the state, Maurya had told reporters: 'The truth is emerging through the probe. If SIMI reappears in any form, it will be crushed.' When asked if the PFI will be banned, Maurya said, 'The process is on. Such organisations will not be allowed to grow. If needed, they will be banned.' Wasim was arrested for allegedly masterminding the violence, police had said.

'We have got success in arresting the mastermind of the Lucknow violence. Wasim, Nadeem and Ashfaq of the PFI have been arrested. While Wasim is the state head, Ashfaq is the treasurer and Nadeem is a member of the PFI,' the then Lucknow SSP Kalanidhi Naithani had said.

Police had seized placards, flags, pamphlets, literature, newspaper cuttings, banners and posters for the anti-NRC or CAA protest from them, the SSP had said.

During interrogation, Nadeem and Ashfaq had told police that they made the strategy for the December 19 protests and publicised it on social media, he had said.

Nadeem and Ashfaq incited people for the protest through WhatsApp and other platforms by sharing literature and video, Naithani had said.

Besides, in Shamli district of western Uttar Pradesh, 28 people, including 14 members of the PFI, were arrested for allegedly attempting to incite mass gatherings during anti-CAA protests.

'As many as 14 PFI members, including Mohammad Shadab, a prominent member of the PFI, have been arrested. Two PFI members are wanted. Another 14 people were also arrested in the district,' Shamli SP Vineet Jaiswal had said.

On December 19, the situation was tense in Shamli and its Kairana town.

Around 150 people were taken into preventive custody after the Uttar Pradesh Police got intelligence inputs about the PFI 'planning unrest' in Kairana and Kandhla towns of Shamli.

The PFI was formed in 2006 in Kerala as a successor to the National Democratic Front (NDF). Security agencies have alleged that its leaders have been groomed in the SIMI ideology.

Earlier, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma had said that the authorities suspect the role of the PFI and SIMI in the violence during the anti-CAA protests in the state. PTI NAV7 RHL