Bajrang Dal members take out a rally in Indore. | Zafar Aafaq

On the afternoon of January 21, Moin Khan was attending to a personal matter in a court in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, when he got a panicked call from his friend Mohammad Rizwan.

“‘Bajrang Dal men have barged into my home, come fast,’ he told me,” said Khan. Unable to leave his work and go all the way to Shree Nagar, a middle-class neighbourhood where his friend lived, the 21-year-old sent his father instead.

When his father Anwar Khan Qadri reached the building in which Rizwan lived, he found a mob of 100 men from the Bajrang Dal swarming around the third-floor flat and taking videos. “They had locked Rizwan and his friends inside the apartment and were beating them,” Qadri told Scroll. “I couldn’t do anything.”

Six months ago, Rizwan and his four friends, residents of Shajapur, a town 100 km away, had moved to Indore to learn web design, Moin said.

That day, Salman Akhtar, one of the flatmates, had invited his friend, a young woman from the Hindu community, to the apartment to celebrate her birthday. Another woman was also in the apartment.

In the afternoon, Bajrang Dal workers forced their way into the flat to carry out a “raid”, accusing Rizwan and his friends of “love jihad”.

“Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory peddled by Hindutva organisations that claims there is an organised plot by Muslim men to seduce Hindu women and convert them to Islam. Since 2020, several states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, including Madhya Pradesh, have enacted laws against religious conversion that effectively criminalise inter-faith relationships and marriage.

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