The police in Uttar Pradesh on Monday night detained a journalist and three other men allegedly linked to Popular Front of India when they were on their way to Hathras district, where the gangrape and brutal assault of a Dalit woman has sparked nationwide outrage, NDTV reported.

This came hours after Chief Minister Adityanath alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s political opponents were attempting to conspire against it by “trying to lay a foundation for caste and communal riots through international funding”. The state police has also filed 19 first information reports in Hathras against unidentified persons for allegedly attempting to incite caste-based conflict after the woman’s death last week.

The four men Atiq-ur Rehman, Siddique Kappan, Masood Ahmed and Alam were stopped by the state police at a toll after they received information that some “suspicious people” were travelling from Delhi. In an official statement, the police said their mobile phones, a laptop and some literature, which could impact law and order situation, have been seized.

Siddique Kappan, a journalist and the secretary of Kerala Union of Working Journalists’ Delhi unit, was on his way to report on the current situation in the woman’s village.

The Kerala Union of Working Journalists has urged Adityanath to release Kappan immediately. “We understand that he was taken into police custody by Uttar Pradesh police from Hathras toll plaza,” the journalists body said in a statement. “Our efforts and the efforts by some advocates based in Delhi to contact him were not successful. The Hathras police station and the state police department has not provided any information so far on taking him into custody.”

Kappan had earlier sent a legal notice to the people who had linked him to Popular Front of India or PFI, according to NDTV. The Adityanath-led state government has blamed the organisation for protests against the Citizenship Amendment Law that erupted last year and the subsequent vandalism.

The rape case

On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman. She died on September 29, a day after being moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed. The four men have been arrested. However, the woman was hastily cremated by police against her family’s will, while they had been locked indoors. This has led to outrage and protests across the country.

The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her. However, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was admitted – said the forensic lab’s report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed. Experts have also pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected many days after the crime was committed, sperm would not be present. The autopsy report of the woman had showed that she was strangled and suffered a cervical spine injury. The final diagnosis did not mention rape, but had pointed out that there were tears in her genitalia and there had been “use of force”.