Seventeen people, including a former Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, were arrested in Bhopal on Sunday in two separate incidents of groups attacking a restaurant and a hookah bar on Valentine’s Day, according to The Indian Express.
The police said many of the attackers identified themselves as aides of Surendra Nath Singh, the former BJP MLA from Bhopal South West.
Meanwhile, a local BJP youth leader also alluded that Singh was behind the incidents. “Our teams embarked on a halla bol on Sunday following a call by ex-BJP MLA Surendra Nath Singh against love jihad and drug abuse promoting hookah bars,” Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha leader Amit Rathore, told NDTV. “Some youngsters vented their frustration and anger by damaging property...Let me make it clear, this is just a start, many more action will follow if the hookah bars aren’t closed.”
“Love jihad” is a pejorative term coined by the right-wing groups to push the conspiracy theory that Muslim men charm Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam.
“Based on the complaint and all those who were identified, we have arrested 17 people, including ex-MLA Surendra Nath Singh,” Bhopal DIG Irshad Wali told The Indian Express.
Visuals of the attack also went viral on social media.
In one of the cases, a group identifying themselves as members of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha vandalised the “Junkyard Cafe”, an eatery in the Shyamla Hills area of the Madhya Pradesh capital, The Indian Express reported. Narendra Kumar, the cafe’s manager said in his complaint that eight people armed with bats and hockey sticks entered the cafe and abused the customers and misbehaved with the staff.
“The men accused us of promoting love jihad,” Kumar said. “[They said] this is just the trailer, if you are seen inside the cafe again, we will kill you”.
In a separate incident, a group of about 10 people barged into “Cowboy Restro Bar” near Bittan market in the city, holding saffron flags, and vandalised the cafe. A complaint filed by 28-year old Rahul Yadav stated that the people, who identified themselves as workers of the Shiv Sena, abused customers at the restaurant, The Indian Express reported.
“My workers in the restaurant and I tried to intervene and during the process, we also suffered minor injuries,” Yadav said. “They damaged the furniture inside and then left.”