A journalist, who is a contributor for a popular Kerala-based website, and three other men were arrested in Uttar Pradesh's Mathura on Monday over alleged links to the Popular Front of India or PFI, an outfit the Yogi Adityanath government wants banned.
The four men were headed from Delhi to Hathras, where a 20-year-old woman was allegedly gang raped and tortured last month, in a car when they were stopped and arrested, police said.
According to the cops, the four men - Atiq-ur Rehman, Siddique Kappan, Masood Ahmed and Alam - were stopped at a toll after they received information that some "suspicious people were on their way to Hathras from Delhi". Their mobile phones, a laptop and some literature, "which could have an impact on peace, and law and order in the state", have been seized, a statement said. The men, during questioning, revealed they had links with the PFI and its associate organisation Campus Front of India (CFI), the police claimed.
The alleged gang rape of the 20-year-old woman, who died in Delhi last week, has triggered widespread outrage.
Siddique Kappan, a journalist, had "gone to Hathras on Monday to cover the present situation in the area," the Kerala Union of Working Journalists said in a statement. He is also the secretary of the journalists' body's Delhi unit.
In a letter, addressed to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the journalists' body urged for his release "at the earliest".
"We understand that he was taken into police custody by Uttar Pradesh police from Hathras toll plaza. Our efforts and the efforts by some advocates based in Delhi to contact him were not successful. The Hathras Police Station and the State Police department has not provided any information so far on taking him into custody," the letter read.
Mr Kappan, in the past, has been reportedly linked to the PFI but he had sent a legal notice to the people who had made the allegations.
KN Ashokan, editor of a popular Malayalam website Azhimukham, who worked with Mr Kappan told NDTV: "He is a contributor with our website. As far as my knowledge goes, he does not have any such links (to PFI). He informed us yesterday (Monday) morning that he was going to Hathras. After that we were trying to reach out to him, but we could not. We got to know about the detention from reports."
Last year, the UP government sought a ban on the PFI over its alleged links to the statewide protests against the citizenship law, which was called "anti-Muslim" by several opposition parties and critics.
Nineteen FIRs have been filed over the Hathras incident by the Uttar Pradesh police, facing criticism over the handling of the case. The police has alleged an attempt to disturb peace in the state and listed sedition, conspiracy and promoting religious hatred in the main FIR or First Information Report filed in the incident.
As several opposition leaders demanded Yogi Adityanath's resignation, the Chief Minister, apparently targeting the rivals over the issue, on Sunday tweeted: "Those who do not like development, they want to incite ethnic and communal riots."