After a video showing Popular Front of India (PFI) activists allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans in Pune went viral, protests erupted in the city and parts of Maharashtra on Sunday with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Yuva Sena (the youth wing of the Shiv Sena) all demanding that sedition charges be lodged against them and the outfit banned.
Members of the PFI had demonstrated in Pune city on Friday following the nationwide crackdown on the outfit by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and other agencies including the Maharashtra ATS, which have charged the PFI for being involved in terror funding and recruitment. Alleged pro-Pakistan slogans were raised during this demonstration.
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Maharashtra Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Legislative Assembly and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said that if the allegations were true, then he would urge Maharashtra Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to immediately crack down on such persons of a seditious disposition.
“If this [raising of pro-Pakistan slogans by PFI members] has indeed happened, then it is most shameful and must be nipped in the bud. A thorough probe must be ordered by the government to find who the masterminds are. Immediate action must be taken against those who dare to raise such slogans whilst staying in India,” said Mr. Pawar, speaking in Baramati.
‘Booked for sedition’
Earlier today, the city unit of the BJP, along with representatives of eleven other outfits including Sangh Parivar affiliates — the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal — met the Pune Commissioner of Police Amitabh Gupta to demand that the PFI members allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans be immediately booked for sedition.
According to BJP leader Jagdish Mulik, around 60 PFI activists had staged an “illegal protest” outside the Pune Collector’s office on Friday while raising ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans.
“The police had conducted a benign investigation wherein 41 of the PFI members were taken into custody but released on bail after a few hours. This is unacceptable. We met with the Police Commissioner today and submitted a memorandum demanding that sedition cases be lodged against the PFI protestors. The outfit ought to be banned for vitiating Pune’s cultural atmosphere,” Mr. Mulik said, warning that the BJP’s protest would intensify if the police did not take stern action against the PFI.
Meanwhile, MNS activists tried to vandalise the PFI branch office in Aurangabad district as MNS chief Raj Thackeray warned against such slogans.
In a long statement, Mr. Thackeray warned: “If the Hindus of Hindustan and our Marathi Hindus decide to take the matter in their hands, then I cannot imagine what these scoundrels will face…Do not make me say it here! If this happens, there will be unrest during festive times. So, it is better to put an end to these anti-national activities on an urgent basis.”
On Saturday, Mr. Shinde, commenting on the PFI demonstration, had already warned of stern action and said, “This is the land of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and no one has the right to raise slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’. This is a State of patriots and our government has taken the matter very seriously and is probing it thoroughly.”
However, some Muslim outfits like the Mulnivasi Muslim Manch claimed that the video clip showing PFI activists raising pro-Pakistan slogans were ‘phoney’ and ‘doctored’ and that an English news channel which had first broadcasted the news ought to be probed.
“When the PFI staged their protest on Friday against the NIA investigations against them, they did so under the stern eye of the police. It is inconceivable that they would have raised pro-Pakistan slogans,” asserted Anjum Inamdar, founder of the Manch.
Mr. Inamdar further questioned why it was that the purported clip showing PFI members raising pro-Pakistan slogans was being broadcast by a particular English news channel several hours after the PFI demonstration on Saturday.
“There is much more than meets the eye in this case…a number of Muslim outfits and progressive social groups will be meeting the Police Commissioner on Monday and demand that the clip be thoroughly probed,” he said.