The state intelligence assessment report on riots in Uttar Pradesh in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has revealed while the outrage among Muslims was spontaneous, the violence was mostly organised. The report has revealed further the role of SIMI’s alleged new form of Popular Front of India (PFI) in mobilising, arson, firing and bombing communally sensitive areas of the state. A detailed investigation is underway to ascertain the role of PFI in Uttar Pradesh violence. The state will urge the Union Home Ministry to initiate appropriate action against the organisation.
During the riots, 21 people died and around 400 people were injured in the state. The worst affected by the violence during the protest was western Uttar Pradesh, where 318 people were arrested for arson, shootings and destruction of government property.
Police officers share evidence against PFI
Meerut Zone Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Prashant Kumar said, “In many cases, evidence has been found against PFI leaders. So far, about 20 PFI members have been arrested. These include state president Noor Hasan of the Social Democratic Party of India, the political wing of the PFI. The main centres of violence were Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Bulandshahr.”
According to the ADG, “The role of PFI in creating conditions like riots in western Uttar Pradesh is being investigated. Evidence has been found of the presence of rioters inciting large-scale violence in Muslim-dominated areas of western Uttar Pradesh. Bijnor, Sambhal and Rampur were badly affected.”
Superintendent of Police (SP) of Rampur Ajay Pal Sharma said, “We suspect that incidents of violence, particularly fire on government property, were organised.” When asked why they have such doubt, Sharma said, “The fact that places where the protesters were present in large numbers were relatively quiet while places where protesters were in small numbers, violence took place on a large scale.”
“For example,” said the SP, “the DM and I were keeping an eye on roughly 15,000 protesters (who were holding peaceful demonstrations) at Idgah. Only a few protesters opened fire on the police and hurled locally made crude bombs at Hathikhana located far away. It became clear that the agenda of a small group of rioters operating from some other place was completely different.”
AMU a PFI hub
Rampur adjoining Sambhal, which borders Aligarh, was one of the districts most affected by the violence that erupted during the anti-CAA rally. Intelligence reports say that Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has become the new stronghold of PFI activities.
The PFI turned the AMU campus into a battlefield on 15 December and clashes continued between students and police throughout the day.
The AMU has been closed till 5 January. The administration has ordered the university to vacate all hostels to prevent further escalation of violence in the communally sensitive city of Aligarh.
Defending its students, the AMU Teachers Association has now demanded a judicial inquiry into the 15 December riot. However, the AMU administration is silent on the role of the student unit of PFI and the Campus Front of India, a deeply entrenched outfit in the university in the police-student conflict.
Hand of local Muslim organisations
Police alleged that the PFI and other local Muslim organisations played a key role in instigating the violence.
Kanpur was one of the most violence-hit cities in the country, where about 2.5 lakh people descended on the road after the Friday prayers. Senior Superintendent of Police of Kanpur Anant Dev said, “Outsiders seemed to have organised the violence. We need more evidence to substantiate that, of course. At present, we have registered 17 cases and the police are identifying more culprits through video footage.”
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the state police is also trying to find out if the Kanpur rioters had contacted the rioters of Lucknow. In the state capital Lucknow, the police arrested PFI state convenor Wasim Ahmed and other officials in connection with the large-scale violence and arson in the city.
PFI denies charge; government not impressed
Why do police and intelligence agencies consider PFI’s involvement in violence across the state? On this, the central leadership of the organisation said that the Uttar Pradesh government had implicated the organisation on false charges. The PFI said that Ahmad, arrested by Lucknow Police, had no role in arson or damage to government property.
A PFI official said, “These arrests are part of a larger conspiracy to suppress these mass movements and present them as a terrorist incident.”
Meanwhile, an officer at the level of principal secretary of the Uttar Pradesh government said that a detailed investigation is underway to ascertain the role of PFI in anti-CAA demonstrations. He said that the state would urge the Union Home Ministry to initiate appropriate action against the organisation.