The Pune police said that are probing allegations that pro-Pakistan slogans were chanted during the protests held by activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) on Friday against the nationwide searches on premises linked to the outfit and the arrest of its members by central agencies under terrorism charges.
Among the series of agitations held by PFI members and supporters across the country, the protest in Pune was held on Friday afternoon in front of the district collectorate. Leaders, workers and supporters of the PFI raised slogans against the raids by central and state investigative agencies. The protesters also raised slogans hailing the PFI and condemning the BJP.
From Saturday morning, a number of videos from the protest surfaced on social media platforms. Claims were made in the messages accompanying these videos that the pro-Pakistan slogans were chanted during the PFI protest held in Pune. Some of these videos were also reported by a section of media.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said in a tweet in Marathi on Saturday afternoon, “The sloganeering of Pakistan Zindabad by some anti-social elements in Pune is highly condemnable. While the police machinery will take appropriate action against them, we want to make it clear that such slogans will not be tolerated in the land of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.” Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the charge of state home ministry, said speaking to the media, “We will not spare anyone who gives the slogan of Pakistan Zindabad in Maharashtra or anywhere in India. We will find those people out and take action against them.”
PFI’s Pune Unit President Mohammed Qais Anwar Shaikh said in a video message, “During the protest condemning raids against PFI leaders, our members and supporters chanted slogans of Popular Front of India Zindabad. A section of the media manipulated this and tried to present it as slogans of Pakistan Zindabad. We will initiate appropriate legal action against those who are defaming us or spreading rumours about us.”
When asked about the allegation about the pro-Pakistan slogans, Pune Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta said, “We are looking into it.”
Another official from Pune police told Express,“We are looking into reports that some people chanted pro-Pakistan slogans during the protest held in front of the Pune district collector’s office. We are looking into videos taken by our own personnel at the time of protest, also those received from other sources and the ones circulated on social media platforms after confirming their authenticity.”
The police had on Friday detained 42 people, including leaders, members and supporters of PFI. They were released later in the night after being issued warning notices. In the early hours of Saturday, over 60 persons were booked at Bundgarden police station under Indian Penal Code sections pertaining to unlawful assembly, wrongful restraint for blocking the road and on charges of disobeying orders issued by government officials because they held the protest despite being denied permission to do so, officials said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), along with state agencies, had on Thursday launched nationwide raids against the PFI across several states in connection with their probe into terrorism and terror-funding charges. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) too had launched a crackdown in the state and conducted raids at 12 places and arrested 20 persons linked to the PFI, including two from Pune.