DUBAI // A former expatriate who modified his Honda Accord to resemble a Dubai Police car in Kerala wanted to make it attractive for Eid celebrations, says one of his friends.
But Indian police said the modification was a serious offence that could have caused riots.
Abdul Jabir, who used to work in Dubai, and four friends aged between 25 and 30 were arrested on Sunday night.
They have been charged by Kasaragod Police for driving the car without a valid licence, speeding and modifying the vehicle without permits.
Police said the five were also charged with "intent to cause riots", out of concern that the car, driven by Mr Jabir, could have disrupted peace in the district, which has been the scene of clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Police have confiscated the car.
"The stickers were only for attraction to celebrate Eid," said Mr Jabir's friend, who identified himself as Shakur and said he was not arrested as he was not in the car.
"It was not to look like a Dubai Police car. There was no Dubai Police or anything written on it, or any sirens."
Shakur did not say where Mr Jabir had worked in Dubai or when he returned to Kerala.
The car had stickers in white and green colours on the side, similar to those on Dubai Police cars, and the Arabic words "Al Shurta" (police) across its doors. The back of the car had black stickers.
"In Kasaragod, people know Arabic and often cars have Arabic words written on them," Shakur said. "My friend only did it to make his car stand out during the celebrations.
"They didn't know it would become serious. If they had known they wouldn't have done something this risky."
He said his friends - Mr Jabir, Mohammed Shihab, Mohammed Sherif, Abdul Hameed and Ahmed Kabir - were arrested without any warning but were released on bail immediately after.
Mr Shakur said none of the men were available for a comment.
Police said they made the arrests after receiving calls from the public.
"We got information of the car being driven and arrested them," said S Surendran, district police chief in the Kasaragod district.
"The place is communally sensitive. Hindus could have attacked the car and it could have caused riots. They [those charged] have done this despite knowing this.
"They have no right to drive the car without any permission or consent. They wanted to look like Dubai Police. There was a huge risk of creating trouble. It is a serious offence."