The Pune Police have dropped sedition charges that were invoked against Popular Front of India members, who have been accused of shouting pro-Pakistan slogans at a protest in the city following arrest of its cadres by the National Investigation Agency for allegedly supporting terror activities, reported The Indian Express on Monday.
On Sunday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had said that such slogans would not be tolerated and promised to take strict action by filing a case of sedition.
After this, Pune Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta had said that charges under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between groups), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 120B (criminal conspiracy), and 109 (abetment) of the Indian Penal Code have been invoked in the case.
However, the police dropped the sedition charges in view of a Supreme Court order directing the Union and state governments to refrain from registering cases under the law till it is examined.
Over a hundred leaders as well as functionaries of the Popular Front of India have been arrested after raids were conducted by the National Investigation Agency and the Enforcement Directorate on September 22 for alleged terrors links.
As protests broke out following the raids, videos were circulated on social media purportedly showing that Popular Front of India workers were shouting “Pakistan Zindabad” (long live Pakistan) in Pune. News agency ANI, which shared one of the videos of the incident, said that the audio in some parts was faint but reporters on the field corroborated that pro-Pakistan slogans were shouted.
However, a fact-check done by Alt News showed that protestors were shouting “Popular Front Zindabad” slogans.
Popular Front of India Pune unit chief Mohammed Qais Anwar also said that the demonstrators shouted slogans in support of the organisation.
“A section of the media manipulated this and tried to present it as slogans of Pakistan Zindabad,” he added. “We will initiate appropriate legal action against those who are defaming us or spreading rumours about us.”
On Saturday, the Pune Police said that the videos of the incident will be sent for forensic analysis.
“A case was registered at Bundgarden police station for unlawful assembly and wrongful restraint,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 2) Sagar Patil said. “Multiple video clips of the incident being circulated on social media are being examined.”
Raids against Popular Front of India
The Popular Front of India was created in 2007 through the merger of three Muslim organisations in southern India. It describes itself as an organisation that works towards “the achievement of socio-economic, cultural and political empowerment of the deprived and the downtrodden and the nation at large”.
Officials have described the September 22 raids as the “largest-ever investigation process till date”. The searches, according to them, were carried out against those involved in terror funding, organising training camps and radicalising persons to join proscribed organisations.
The maximum number of arrests were made in Kerala (22), followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka (20 each), Andhra Pradesh (5), Assam (9), Delhi (3), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry (3), Tamil Nadu (10), Uttar Pradesh (8) and Rajasthan (2).