NEW DELHI: Several members of an Islamic organisation were detained on Tuesday in different parts of India amid allegations of violence and anti-national activities.

Reports said scores of members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were rounded up after a spate of protests by the group against raids on its offices. The PFI was founded in 2008 to rally support for Muslims and other targeted groups.

Last week, a video surfaced on social media, which showed that a “Pakistan Zindabad” slogan was allegedly raised during a protest organised by the PFI in Pune, drawing a sharp reaction from the Maharashtra government, which said action would be taken against the slogan shouters.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said such slogans would not be tolerated in the state, while Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is also the home minister, said those who indulged in this sloganeering would not be spared.

The attack on the Muslim group comes ahead of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s nationwide march entering BJP-ruled Karnataka state, which has been the hub of the so-called hijab dispute, which the government sees as the handiwork of PFI.

Last week a picture showed Rahul Gandhi walking on his march holding the hand of a hijab-clad schoolgirl.

The alleged pro-Pakistan video shows, according to The Hindu, that the slogan was raised a couple of times when the PFI activists were being bundled into a police vehicle as part of their detention during the protest held on Friday. The PFI had organised the protest outside the district collector office to denounce the recent nationwide raids on the outfit and the arrest of its activists. During the protest, the police detained around 40 protesters.

The Pune police said they were investigating the matter. Tuesday’s arrests follow a crackdown earlier this month on the PFI in which about 100 people were detained.

The PFI has condemned the detentions and related raids as harassment and held street protests. “This is nothing but prevention of the right to democratic protests against the central government’s witch-hunt targeting PFI and is quite natural and expected under this autocratic system,” PFI said on Twitter.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2022

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