Thirty people, including several members and the chief of right-wing Hindu outfit ‘Sangeet Som Sena’, have been charged with rioting and looting after they vandalised a biryani-seller’s cart in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut. The perpetrators were trying to stop the vendor from selling non-vegetarian food during Navratri.
The incident took place on Saturday (April 2), according to the Times of India, in the Sardhana area. Among those named in the FIR is Sangeet Som Sena chief Sachin Khatik.
The organisation is named after controversial Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sangeet Som, who used to represent the Sardhana assembly constituency for a decade before he lost to Samajwadi Party’s Atul Pradhan in the 2022 state elections.
The biryani vendor, Mohd Sajid, has said that his cart was vandalised while he was selling biryani near a market in Sardhana. According to him, he was not selling meat but vegetarian soya biryani. There are no rules against selling meat during Navratri, or any other time of the year, in the area.
“They threw away all the food, vandalised my cart and took away my money,” Sajid said in his police complaint, according to the Times of India. He named Khatik and six others in his complaint; the police added another 24 unidentified persons to the FIR after seeing videos of the incident circulate on social media.
“An FIR for loot, vandalism and disturbing peace has been lodged since the incident caused communal tension in the area,” Sardhana police station SHO Laksham Verma told the newspaper.
Despite the FIR, Khatik has shown no remorse over the vandalism. “If it is a crime to raise voice against those who sell non-veg during Navratri, I am ready to pay the price,” he said in a social media post after the incident.
Former BJP MLA Som, whose supporters Khatik and others claim to be, has made the news several times in the past for his anti-Muslim speeches and other controversial behaviour. Som was accused in 2013 of inciting riots and spreading hatred by disturbing the communal atmosphere. He was arrested and imprisoned by the SP government.