Indore: 4 youth muslim men, including two students, were arrested from a college Garba event in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore on Sunday after a large group of rightwing activists allegedly barged in and went on the rampage, accusing the college of promoting “love jihad”.
The police said they were “preventive arrests” after clashes at the Oxford College and the men were released on bail. A magistrate ordered the release of Adnan Shah, Mohammad Umar, Abdul Qadir and Syed Saqib after they submitted bonds of ₹ 50,000 each.
The group that stormed the college festivities belonged to the Bajrang Dal, which is linked to the state’s ruling BJP. No action was taken against them. The college has been fined by the police for violating Covid norms.
The arrested men and their families say they were targeted on the basis of their name, even though they showed their college IDs.
Adnan Shah, 21, says he had been asked by the committee organising the Garba event to volunteer. He was helping students park their vehicles at the cycle stand when the Bajrang Dal members allegedly stormed in.
“My duty was at the cycle stand when 100 to 150 people barged in and started a ruckus,” said Adnan, a second year B.Com student.
He said he was among 25 student volunteers present there but was singled out. “When I showed them my identity card, they said it meant nothing and asked me why I was there,” he said.
Members of the Bajrang Dal alleged “love jihad” — a term used by the right-wing to accuse Muslim men of tricking Hindu women into relationships for the purpose of converting them.
A Bajrang Dal leader, Tarun Devda, said in a police complaint that the district administration had permitted only 800 at the programme but many more showed up as the organisers turned it into a commercial event by selling tickets. He also accused the college of “encouraging Muslims” to attend a Garba program organised during the festival of Navratra.
Besides Adnan, another Muslim student and two more Muslim men who had bought entry tickets for the event were taken away by the police.
The police defended the arrests as a move to restore peace.
“When we reached the spot, 5,000 people had gathered there. An FIR was registered against the college and we arrested four young men to maintain peace,” said Prashant Chaubey, a senior police officer, on the arrest.
Relatives of one of the arrested men told NDTV that the young men were invited to the college for the function and then taken away and accused of practising so-called “Love jihad”.
“Does the constitution of this country not allow Muslim children to attend functions in their college,” Sajid Shah, one of the relatives said.
Earlier in the day, controversial posters asking for “non-Hindus” to be barred from Garba events were seen outside various colleges in another part of Madhya Pradesh.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), another right-wing group, had put up the posters at public places in Ratlam. The police didn’t take any action saying there was no formal complaint.
“I have come to know about the posters through the media. When we investigated, we came to know that these are private functions and they are doing this in their colonies and in a private manner. No one has objected so it’s not a cognisable offense,” Gaurav Tiwari, a police officer, said.
On whether posters like these amount to spreading communal enmity, he said – “No, this cannot be defined as spreading communal disharmony.”
In 2014, senior BJP leader, Usha Thakur, had warned Garba organisers not to allow non-Hindus and asked them to screen participants on the basis of their voter cards. Ms Thakur is now the state Minister for Culture and Tourism.