Lucknow: Kanpur Police arrested more people Saturday, including the head of a local Islamic NGO, in connection with the violence that broke out in Kanpur Friday. According to the Uttar Pradesh Police, allegations of links between the Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) and the violent protests is also being probed.
Crowds of protesters had resorted to stone pelting during a bandh observed by members of the Muslim community in the city’s Nayi Sarak and Dada Miyaan areas, in protest against controversial comments made by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma against Prophet Muhammad during a TV debate over the Gyanvapi Mosque issue. Several were reportedly injured in the violence.
Speaking to mediapersons Saturday, Kanpur police commissioner Vijay Singh Meena said that a total of 18 persons were arrested Friday and another six the next day. A total of 36 persons have been booked in three separate FIRs lodged under different sections of the IPC, he added.
The Kanpur crime branch Saturday confirmed the arrest of Hayat Zafar Hashmi, National President of local NGO Maulana Mohammed Ali (MMA) Jauhar Fans Association; Javed Ahmed, state president of the NGO; and Mohammad Rahil, a member. Another person named Mohammad Sufiyan was taken into custody as well.
A statement by the Kanpur Police said that the four Kanpur residents were arrested from the office of a YouTube channel owned by Ahmed, in Lucknow’s Hazratganj, where they had allegedly fled after the violence and been hiding.
Meanwhile, Kanpur-based Sufi Khanqah Association (SKA) has alleged that the entire incident has a link with the PFI. SKA describes itself as an organisation of nationalist Sufis, an Islamic sect that focuses on Islamic spirituality, ritualism, asceticism and esotericism.
The PFI is among several Muslim organisations that allegedly supported the demand for an FIR being lodged against BJP’s Nupur Sharma.
An extremist Islamic organisation, the PFI’s name cropped up in political clashes and terror incidents since its inception in 2006. Most recently, the PFI has been in the news for its alleged involvement in the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, and the Hijab row in Karnataka.
‘If links with PFI found, ban the outfit’
Ahead of the VVIP visit of President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to Kanpur, which coincided with the day of the violence, unsigned posters had come up in several areas of the city calling for a market bandh in protest against the disrespectful comments made about Prophet Muhammad by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
Videos of the 3 June violence that ThePrint has seen show scores of protesters pelting stones and bricks. Gunshots are heard in the background. There were reports of gunshots being allegedly fired by protesters.
More videos emerged on Saturday which showed the police lathicharging protesters and dragging some locals by their clothes. Another video in ThePrint’s possession shows the police repeatedly hitting a protester even as he is dragged away and abuses are hurled at him.
According to SKA National President Sufi Mohammad Kausar Hasan Majidi, inviting people to participate in nation-wide protests and choosing a Friday, a day Muslims visit mosques in huge numbers, and choosing the city and district the president and the PM were visiting together reveals a “very big connection” between the incidents and the PFI.
“The Sufi Khanqah Association has been alerting [the authorities] for a long time that Kanpur has a PFI connection. In the backdrop of their warning, the gang of local goons and its [the PFI] links are being probed. So, I request senior officials of the Central and state government that a high-level committee should probe the incident and if links with the PFI are found, the outfit should be banned without any delay,” Majidi said in a statement to the press late Friday night.
The state treasurer of the PFI, K.H. Nazer, was arrested Saturday for allegedly delivering a hate speech in Kerala. Nazer was one of the organisers of the rally where a child was heard chanting anti-Hindu and Christian slogans in a video which has since gone viral.
Sources in the Kanpur Police say that they are probing the links between MMA Jauhar Fans Association’s Hashmi and the PFI.
Five PFI workers had been arrested in connection with the anti-CAA protests. Sources in the police say they are now checking if those workers had any relations with Hashmi.
According to a police statement, so far the four arrested on Saturday have admitted to the involvement of six others, who will be taken in custody for more questioning.
“It will be probed if the nuisance creators have any relation with any organisation or if they have been funded by anyone. Their bank accounts will also be checked so that the noose can be tightened around the entire network,” a Kanpur Police officer said to ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
Sources in the police have said that they will probe the transactions made via Hashmi’s bank accounts, as well as that of his associates and their organisations.
Six mobile phones and documents have been recovered from the four persons arrested Saturday, the statement added.
Kanpur, Lucknow on alert
Meanwhile, tensions prevail in several areas of Kanpur and few shops remain open in the Muslim-dominated areas like Becon Ganj, Yatim Khana and Nai Sarak, among others.
Addressing mediapersons on 4 June, Kanpur police commissioner Vijay Singh Meena said that the gangster act will be invoked against the accused. A recommendation will be made to invoke the National Security Act against them, he added, and their properties will be seized.
Flag marches were held in the affected areas of Kanpur on Saturday and 12 companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) have been deployed in the district.
Lucknow police has issued an alert and deployed police forces outside the house of Samajwadi Party’s Sumaiya Rana, daughter of poet Munawwar Rana. The SP leader, who was allegedly planning a protest in Kanpur against BJP spokesperson Sharma, has been put under house arrest. She tweeted Saturday: “The police today have converted my house into a cantonment once again”.
— Sumaiya Rana (@RanaSumaiya) June 4, 2022
According to police officials, the Lucknow police has also held peace meetings with Muslim groups in Kanpur and has been in touch with clerics.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)