In the first major arrest of a politician for the Muzaffarnagar violence, BJP MLA Suresh Rana was on Friday apprehended by Uttar Pradesh police on charges of making provocative speeches to incite riots.
Rana, who is the BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan in riot-affected Shamli district, was arrested by Lucknow police while he was on his way to Gomti Nagar from the party office this evening, immediately after the Uttar Pradesh Assembly was adjourned sine die.
With UP government under attack over delay in arrest of of MLAs accused of inciting violence in Muzaffarnagar, IG (Law and Order) R K Vishwakarma had on Thursday said the arrest was being "deliberately avoided" as the session of state Assembly was in progress.
"On the basis of the application moved by Muzaffarnagar police, Rana has been arrested by Lucknow police and will be produced in the court," Vishwakarma said on Friday.
He said that a case has been lodged against Rana under sections 188 (knowingly disobeying orders to maintain public order), 153 A (promoting enmity between groups on the basis of religion) 353 (provoking with intent to cause riots) and 435 (damage to property) of IPC and criminal law amendment act, which is non-bailable. Rana was among the 16 politicians and community leaders against whom a Muzaffarnagar court had on Wednesday issued non-bailable arrest warrants. The communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas claimed 47 lives and displaced over 40,000 people.
Regarding the arrest of other persons named in the FIRs relating to Muzaffarnagar riots, the police officer said that as of now 72 people were wanted.
"As and when further arrests are made, the media will be informed," he said.
The officer had said that there was a process for arrest of MLAs while the session was in progress. "We cannot arrest MLAs from Vidhan Sabha and for any action outside the Assembly, Speaker has to be informed," the IG had said.
A local court in Muzaffarnagar on Wednesday had issued arrest warrants against 16 politicians and community leaders including BSP MP Qadir Rana, BJP MLAs Sangeet Som and Bhartendu Singh, BSP MLAs Noor Saleem and Maulana Jameel, Congress leader Saeeduzaman and BKU chief Naresh Tikait. They are wanted for violating prohibitory orders and provoking communal tension by inflammatory speeches in different meetings (mahapanchayats) in the district, police said.
High drama had unfolded in front of UP Assembly on Wednesday with BJP leaders and workers, led by Uma Bharati, protesting against the possible arrest of party MLA Som.
As news of Rana's arrest spread, several of his supporters reached the Gomtinagar police station and tried to prevent police from taking him away to an undisclosed destination.
Laxmikant Bajpayi, the Uttar Pradesh BJP president, said that the party will defend its leaders in courts.
He accused the Samajwadi Party government of acting against BJP leaders without proof and in order to "appease the minority community".