Several Muslim outfits in Patna, Ranchi and Chennai staged protest expressing solidarity with controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik on Saturday.
Over 150 members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) who raised pro-Pakistan slogans were detained by police during protests in Patna and Ranchi. Patna IG, Nayyar Hasnain Khan said, “The main organiser Mohammad Taufiq has been arrested. We are verifying his antecedents from his hometown in Madhubani. Police are keeping a strict vigil on the situation. I reviewed the case with DIG Shalin, Patna SSP Manu Maharaaj, City SP Chandan Khushwaha and other officials.”
In a statement, PFI Jharkhand president, Hanjala Sheikh said, “It’s an attempt by Hindutva forces to strip the community of their democratic rights by defaming leaders on false terror charges.”
Commenting on the arrests in Ranchi, Sahebganj superintendent of police P Murugan said, “Police made preventive detention of around 100 PFI members to stop their procession. Police are investigating the incident.” Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad also took out a rally later in the day to protest the PFI procession. Meanwhile, in Chennai, protesters from Social Democratic Party of India, criticised the governments at the Centre and Maharashtra for trying to “stifle” the voice of a man of “peace and harmony” and said the launch of a probe against Naik was against the Constitution.
The protesters said Article 25 provides one the right to profess, practise and propagate religion and it should not be infringed upon. Several women among them displayed placards saying, “Dont distort the Constitution.”
Naik, who is currently in Saudi Arabia, is under the scanner of state and central agencies for his alleged incendiary speeches.
Talking to mediapersons via Skype, Naik, who is facing heat over charges that he inspired some of the Dhaka cafe attackers, condemned all terror attacks and dubbed himself as “a messenger of peace”.
(With PTI inputs)