New Delhi: The 12-hour strike by the Popular Front of India ended at 6 p.m. on Friday with more than 500 of its members arrested across the country, vehicles destroyed, officers injured, a petrol bomb hurled at the RSS office in Mattannur and war of words breaking out between political parties . Here’s a look at how the day went:
As many as 500 people were arrested and 400 others were held in pre-emptive detention in Kerala. Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Law and Order, Vijay Sakhare told ANI“500 people have been arrested and another 400 have been placed in protective custody in connection with the hartal summoned by the PFI.” “In another case, two people on motorcycles were arrested with a bomb. Later, three more people were arrested. All five have been arrested. The situation is currently normal and under control,” Sakhare said.
In Pune, more than 35 PFI members were detained for protesting outside the Pune District Collectorate against the nationwide raids on the outfit by the National Investigation Agency the day before.
Meanwhile, 14 people were arrested in Bengaluru on charges of sedition. In a statement, the Bengaluru City Police said the 14 people at the Kadugondanahalli Police Station had been booked under various sections of India’s penal code, including those about waging war against the country. While two individuals were from Bengaluru, the remaining 12 are from different parts of Karnataka. They will be produced for a magistrate, police said.
Likewise, the police in Udupi booked 11 PFI activists on charges of setting up a roadblock.
Violence and victims
Supporters of the flash hartal marched across the country, burning tires on roads, blocking vehicles and forcibly closing shop shutters. Face-covering gangs unleashed violence and attacked shops in Kozhikode, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts.
Kerala State Road Transport buses, trucks and airport vehicles were widely attacked and pelted with stones across the state. Not even an ambulance was spared in Thrissur district.
At least 50 KSRTC buses were damaged, the windshield was smashed and the seats were damaged. More than 10 of its employees were injured in stone pelting and related incidents, official sources said.
The management of the KSRTC posted a Facebook message against the attack on its buses, and the drivers could be seen wearing helmets on the vehicles in many places to escape the stone peeling. In addition to KSRTC employees, police personnel, some bus and truck drivers and commuters were injured in several incidents.
In the town of Erattupetta in Kottayam district, police had to resort to lathi charges to disperse activists who supported the hartal as they attempted to block vehicles after they gathered in large numbers, closed shops and threatened those who traveled in private vehicles.
A Hartal supporter is said to have hit two police officers on patrol with his motorcycle as they tried to stop him from assaulting commuters in Pallimukku in Kollam.
Although he managed to escape from the scene, a manhunt is underway to catch him, police said.
A lottery shop, kept open in Sankranthi Kavala in Kottayam, was destroyed by miscreants while some lorries, en route from Mangaluru, were stopped and their keys snatched by them on a national highway in Kannur blocking traffic in the area.
Local media reported that a petrol bomb was thrown at a vehicle carrying newspapers for distribution in Narayanpara and a land-made bomb was thrown at a local BJP office in Mattannoor by unidentified persons, both in Kannur district.
A 15-year-old girl and an auto rickshaw driver suffered minor injuries in the stone pelting allegedly by PFI activists in Kozhikode and Kannur respectively. A truck driver on his way to Erode in Tamil Nadu suffered serious injuries to his nose and eyes in Kozhikode as a result of the stone peeling.
“They deliberately attacked us with the intention of destroying the truck. The vehicle was parked on the side of the road when they came and attacked it. I went to a private hospital for emergency care and now I’m going to the government hospital for a detailed check-up,” he said.
In Kannur, a group of PFI activists were beaten up by local people when they tried to force down shop shutters. One of them has been handed over to the police at the Central Bazar in Payyannur.
PFI – SDPI tried to force a hartal in Kannur by threatening shopkeepers.
The end result? They were beaten up by locals and shopkeepers. All the PFI goons were then handed over to the Kerala Police Force. pic.twitter.com/tQPT4jnACc
— Advaid അദ്വൈത് (@Advaidism) September 23, 2022
War of words
As the hartal progressed, so did the quarrels between the parties. Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra said the Congress halted its ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ on Friday because the PFI had called for a strike in Kerala.
In response to Mishra’s allegations, Pawan Khera, chairman of the Congress’ media and publicity department, said the yatra has a one-day break every week.
“PFI and Islamic jihadist organizations have today called for a strike and Congress has halted its Padyatra (march). Nothing could be more petty and shameful,” Mishra, a former minister of the AAP-led government of Delhi and now an arsonist of the Delhi BJP, said in a Hindi tweet.
PFI और इस्लामिक जिहादी संगठनों ने आज हड़ताल का आह्वान किया और कांग्रेस ने आज अपनी पद यात्रा रोक दी
और शर्मनाक कुछ नहीं हो सकता https://t.co/Fvt6cldOQG
— Kapil Mishra (@KapilMishra_IND) September 23, 2022
During a dig in Mishra, Khera asked him if it is true that Mohan Bhagwat, head of the RSS, which has recently reached out to the Muslim community, would start a march to seek an apology from the PFI.
“There is one day break every week in this Bharat Jodo Yatra. The last break was on September 15. Now tell if it is true that Mohan ji Bhagwat is going on a march to seek excuses from PFI (PFI se maafi mango yatra),” Khera replied in a Hindi tweet.
हर 7 दिन पर एक दिन का ब्रेक होता है
— Gaurav Srivastav (@gauravnewsman) September 23, 2022
Meanwhile, Kerala State BJP President K Surendran took to Twitter to condemn the protest:
Strongly condemn the widespread attack on the general public by PFI terrorists. These anti-national elements even attacked police officers, pilgrimage vehicles, KSRTC buses. Why @TheKeralaPolice not take strict action against the perpetrators? Is it a state sponsored hartal?
— K Surendran (@surendranbjp) September 23, 2022
On the other hand, Muslim cleric Maulana Sajid Rashidi called the NIA’s national crackdown on the PFI a “conspiracy to exterminate Muslims”.
Kerala High Court intervenes
The Kerala Supreme Court said on Friday that the PFI Hartal was on the face of court contempt for going against a 2019 injunction passed by it on such protests.
Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar said that despite the 2019 injunction, the PFI called for a flash hartal on Thursday. It was an “illegal” hartal.
The court took suo motu action against PFI and its secretary of state for Hartal’s statement in Kerala.
“The action of the above-mentioned individuals to summon the hartal without following the procedure contemplated in our prior order is prima facie tantamount to contempt for the directions of this Court in the above-mentioned order,” the judge noted.
The court initiated a suo motu case and ordered the police to ensure adequate measures to prevent damage to or destruction of public and private property belonging to those who do not support the Hartal call.
Cause for the heart
In a massive crackdown on the PFI, multi-agency teams led by the NIA had arrested 106 leaders and activists of the radical Islamist group in near-simultaneous raids in 15 states on Thursday for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.
Maharashtra and Karnataka each accounted for 20 arrests, Tamil Nadu (10), Assam (9), Uttar Pradesh (8), Andhra Pradesh (5), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry and Delhi (3 each), Kerala (22 each). ) and Rajasthan (2). PFI State President CP Mohammed Basheer, National Chairman OMA Salam, National Secretary Nasaruddin Elamaram, former Chairman E Abubacker and others were among those arrested.
The searches were conducted across multiple locations in the largest research process ever to date. The operation began late at night around 1am and ended at 5am, involving more than 1,500 state police personnel, Central Police Forces, and officers from NIA and ED.
Popular Front of India
The PFI was launched in Kerala in 2006 after the merging of three Muslim organizations established after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992: the National Development Front of Kerala, Karnataka Forum for Dignity and Manitha Neethi Pasari of Tamil Nadu. After the demolition of Babri Mosque, many fringe outfits had popped up in South India and PFI was formed after some of them were merged.
With input from agencies
Muslim organization or terrorist group? What is the PFI and how has it grown in India?
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Islamic State recruitment, 2020 Delhi riots and more: The PFI’s long ‘crime record’
‘Will never surrender,’ says PFI after NIA-ED raids party offices in 15 states, arrests 106 members
PFI Raids: Everything You Need to Know About NIA, ED’s Pan-India Crackdown
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Kerala High Court finds PFI in contempt: What is the legal status of holding a flash hartal?
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