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Police arrested on Monday two office bearers of Popular Front of India (PFI), including its state president, for “instigating violence during anti-CAA protest” in the state capital on Friday. According to police, PFI is an extremist group.

The accused organised the protest and also called people from other districts who perpetrated violence, police said.

“We have arrested Mohd Asfaq, who is state president of PFI, and Nadeem, its state treasurer, in connection with the violent protests in Lucknow,” Lucknow superintendent of police (SSP) Kalanidhi Naithani said, adding, “They used over 16 closed messaging groups and other social media platforms to invite people to the anti-CAA protest,” he added.

Another PFI member, Wasim Ahmed, the division president of the PFI according to police, is in custody. One person was killed and three others injured in the violence. Miscreants also set on fire two police outposts and over a dozen vehicles in parts of the city.

Asfaq ran a madarsa while Nadeem was a cleric, police said. Literature, including posters, used to incite people was also recovered from Wasim’s house in Indiranagar, they said. “The protest was called by PFI. They also involved youngsters in the protest. They used the protest to spread violence,” the SSP said.

Anis Ansari, PFI in-charge of North Zone, refuted the claims. “Lucknow police is acting on the direction of its political masters. Police have arrested PFI members to hide its own failure in ensuring peace during the protest,” he said.

Besides PFI, investigators have arrested people of other groups in connection as well. In total, 250 other people have been arrested in Lucknow since December 19 and 34 FIRs have been registered. The PFI is active in over a dozen district of UP. A total of 10 FIRs have been registered against the group, they said.