Ten leaders of Popular Front of India (PFI) were on Thursday arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in joint raids carried along with Assam police across several parts of the state.
The arrested people have been identified as Aminul Hoque, Abdul Razzak, Robiul Hussain, Nazrul Islam Bhuyan, Rafiqul Islam, Abu Sama Ahmed, Farhad Ali, Khalilur Rahman, Mufti Rahmatullah and Bazlul Karim. They were arrested in raids conducted at Guwahati, Nagarbera, Samaguri, Barpeta, Karimganj and Baksa.
While Aminul Hoque is the northeast regional secretary of PFI, Abu Sama Ahmed is the organisation’s Assam unit president and Robiul Hussain the state unit general secretary. Those arrested also include Rafiqul Islam and Mufti Rahmatullah, district presidents of PFI’s Nagaon and Barpeta units.
Hoque was earlier arrested in December 2019 for allegedly inciting violence during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests during which five people died due to police firing and large-scale damage to public property took place.
Farhad Ali had contested last year’s assembly election in the state as the official candidate of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) from Mathanguri constituency. He was the common candidate from the opposition that included Congress, AIUDF and eight other parties.
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A case against the arrested leaders have been registered by the special branch of Assam Police and they have been charged under sections 120-B, 124-A, 153-A and 353 of the Indian Penal Code for criminal conspiracy, sedition, promoting enmity between different groups and assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty.
According to a statement issued by Assam Police, these leaders were arrested based on reliable information that they were making all out efforts to foment communal strife across the state.
“They were indulging in whipping the communal passion and sentiments of the religious minority by criticizing every policy of the government with communal overtones which include CAA, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and ‘D’-Voter (doubtful voter)”, the statement read.
It is alleged that the leaders were spreading falsehoods about the new state education policy, Cattle Protection Act, extension of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) examination, Agnipath defence scheme and eviction of encroached government lands “with a view to term these actions of the government as an attack on the Muslim community”.
The statement mentioned that these leaders had on several occasions obstructed government servants from performing their duty by use of force and PFI was trying to conduct several programmes in some districts of Assam by violating prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC.
“The leaders had been extensively using cyber space to provoke the people to defy the government and to divide the society on religious lines and obstructing execution of policies. They were provoking people against the government with the aim of spreading mistrust among the public against the government,” it stated.
It is alleged that these leaders were misleading and inciting people against the government by taking up issues which happened outside the state, like the hijab row in Karnataka, Gyanvapi mosque verdict, etc. and were organising protests in communally sensitive areas like Badarpur, Karimganj, Barpeta, Baksa, Kamrup (Rural), Goalpara and Kamrup (Metropolitan) districts.
Police claims these leaders were also trying to spread communal hatred in Muslim-dominated pockets of Barpeta, Goalpara, Badarpur by whipping their sentiments on the issue of communal violence, Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti that took place in Rajasthan.
“The members of PFI were arrested as they were found actively involved in the conspiracy of propagating anti-establishment propaganda with communal overtones with a view to polarising on religious lines throughout the state and vitiating the atmosphere thus posing a serious threat to the internal security of the country,” the statement read.
Following the arrests, protests by PFI members took place in some parts of the state. Hundreds took out protests in Barasimali in Barpeta district and Nagarbera and Palahlatari in Kamrup (Rural) district. Protesters shouted slogans, took out marches and blocked roads at several locations demanding immediate release of the arrested leaders.
“NIA has illegally arrested our leaders on fabricated charges. We demand that they should be unconditionally released within 24 hours. We dare the NIA and state government to prove how PFI is indulging in anti-India activities,” stated a protester in Nagarbera.
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