"We went for Garba for years, nobody had a problem before this," a local said.
The five Muslim men arrested from a Garba pandal in Madhya Pradesh's Indore did not commit any crime, and the arrest was only preventive, a senior cop said today. The men argued with the organisers and the police, he said.
Speaking to NDTV, Indore Zone-4 Deputy Commissioner of Police RK Singh said there is also no report of any complaint against Bajrang Dal members, and no official order was passed to check identity cards of attendees at Garba pandals.
Mr Singh said such events often happen during the annual event.
"Our duty is to take action, irrespective of religion. We didn't get a complaint from the Bajrang Dal, only from the organisers," he added.
Since the start of the Navratri festivities, there have been several instances of Muslim men being held or beaten up in Madhya Pradesh's Indore. Bajrang Dal members are carrying out search drives at Garba pandals, checking people's ID cards. They were seen thrashing three young Muslim men in Ujjain yesterday, after which they handed them over to the police. They accused the youth of making videos of women at the pandals.
The Muslim youth were arrested after the Bajrang Dal's actions, raising serious questions on the rule of law, and arrests without a significant offence.
The Muslim men have refuted the allegations, saying they had no intention to even enter the pandal.
Speaking to NDTV, 19-year-old Kaif said they had simply stopped on the road as their motorcycle's fuel ran out.
"We just stopped on the main road and were beaten up," he said, adding that they didn't even try to enter the Garba event.
Kaif further narrated that eight to ten Bajrang Dal members, accusing them of making videos, surrounded and assaulted them. They also checked their phones but found nothing, he said. Kaif said they stood with folded hands.
"One of our friends is still in jail. We complained against the Bajrang Dal too, there was no action," he said.
Another Indore resident, Abdul, said people's IDs are being checked around the pandal which is on the main road, and hence people can't stop going there. He said identity cards are being checked only this year and never happened before.
"We went for Garba for years, nobody had a problem before this," he said.
The organisers of the Garba event told NDTV that the Bajrang Dal members harass Muslims and hand them to cops. "This should not happen, the Garba pandals have always been open for all," they said.
"There have been no complaints of harassment by women, and the Bajrang Dal is simply creating nuisance.," the organisers clarified. They say when they asked the police why there's no action against the Bajrang Dal, the police said because they're with the government.
The Bajrang Dal, however, said they have got 14 Muslims arrested from Garba pandals as they came for "love jihad". "We caught people with 'jihadi' mindset at the festival," one of them told NDTV, adding that they had warned non-Hindus not to go to Garba events.
"We also want brotherhood. Why don't they come with their families? If they come for the festivities, why do they hide their identities? We have no problem if Muslims come with their families. Bajrang Dal doesn't initiate violence, but when women are at risk, we'll act," the right wing outfit's Tannu Sharma said, accusing the Muslim youth of holding some women's hands.
Tannu Sharma also claimed that 400-500 of their men do this everyday - go to pandals and check people's IDs to not allow Muslims inside.
The Madhya Pradesh government had last week asked Garba organisers to check the identity cards of people before allowing them entry into the dance pandals, days after state Home Minister Narottam Mishra claimed such events had become a means of "Love Jihad".
"Navratri, the festival of worship of Maa Durga, is the centre of our faith. In a bid to maintain peace and harmony on such a holy occasion, the organisers have been instructed to provide entry in the Garba events only after checking the ID cards," he had said.
On September 8, Culture Minister Usha Thakur had suggested that the entry into Garba dance venues in the state during the Navratri festival should be allowed only after checking of ID cards to prevent "Love Jihad".
"The Garba organisers are now watchful. Those who come to Garba events should bring identity cards. No one (should be allowed) without identity cards. This is advice for all. Garbas had become a means of Love Jihad," she had said.
Traditional Garba dance events are organised during the nine-day Navratri festival, which started from Monday.