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A few calls later, the Muslim boy was confronted by seven Hindu activists. “We told him that if he’s seen with any other Hindu girl again there will be consequences,” Mr. Kulkarni told The Hindu, proudly.
“My advice to Hindu girls is — start saying Jai Shri Ram and Muslim boys won’t trouble them,” said the part-time newsreader. “Girls are fooled easily by boys who give them gifts. We are here to protect our sisters,” Mr. Kulkarni argued. “They are boys I have grown up with. But once they make friends with Hindu girls, they don’t introduce us to them,” he said, not without a hint of jealousy.
The HRS claims to have “solved” 15 relationships by parting Hindu-Muslim couples. It even maintains it has the support of the local traffic authorities who help them identify Muslim boys. “We have two RTO agents as volunteers. They can easily detect if a bike belongs to a Hindu or a Muslim and then we can act,” said a lawyer who is part of the HRS.
The group claims it is often contacted by the parents of the young women. “They call us to solve the matter,” said an oil trader who is part of the HRS. Earlier this year, he said they handled one such case where a daughter had eloped with a Muslim man. “We tried to convince her. When she didn’t listen, we slapped her,” he said candidly.
But they admit that sometimes their efforts are thwarted. “We are ready to face abuse from the girls and their parents. This is our duty,” said an HRS member who is a BJP corporator. Last year, their attempt to convince a Maratha family failed. “We couldn’t do anything as her parents didn’t entertain us. They will realise their mistake soon,” he said, justifying their actions.
He said his organisation would continue to get involved even though there was no coercive element in these relationships. “All the girls are above 18 years, and they marry with consent. But the girls cannot see the sinister plot behind this fake love,” he claimed.
Surprisingly, the police have taken no notice of this vigilante squad despite its strong-arm tactics. “We have not received any complaints. Inter-religious marriages are common these days,” said Dhule additional police superintendent Akhilesh Kumar. “If there is any group that is spreading rumours of a conspiracy, they might be doing so for political benefit,” he added.