India: Muslims Barred from Garba Celebrations in Gujarat

Garba Celebration

Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat have been barred from visiting all garba venues in Mandvi this Navratri. Garba, a dance form native to the state, is performed primarily by women, who wear colourful, traditional clothes and dance in concentric rings around a lit lamp or an idol of Durga during the nine-day Hindu festival known as Navratri that celebrates Goddess Shakti. This festival, involving music, dance, revelry and prayer, is considered exuberant and high-spirited in most parts of India, where adherents of all religions are welcome to participate.

The ban in Mandvi was imposed by Hindu Sangathan Yuva Morcha (HSYM), a local saffron outfit that is organizing garba festivals in the city this year. The organizers said that the ban was imposed prevent cases of ‘love jihad’ in the area.

“We had banned the entry of people from other religions last year itself and framed these strict rules. But these are being more pronounced this year,” said HSYM president Raghuvirsinh Jadeja. “Navratri is a religious festival in which devotees worship the deity of strength for nine days. We are also concerned over the rising number of cases of love jihad. Incidents of love jihad where Muslim boys lure and marry our Hindu girls happen at Garba. Our only aim is to protect our girls.”

Jadeja said members of HSYM would be fanning out across garba venues in Mandvi to ensure no Muslims are present there. Reportedly, there are six such venues in the city.

“We are getting a good response from the people and if the people from other regions respond to this movement, then we will spread it to their regions as well,” he added.

However, Muslims are not the only ones that have been targeted by HSYM, as the group said specifically that Hindus too, who wish to attend one of these venues, would have to apply a tilak on their foreheads and sprinkle cow urine on themselves. According to local residents, Jadeja, who has a private financing enterprise, formed the group last year and has been proposing radical ideas since to cause communal strife in the region.

Azam Angadia, vice-president of Kutch Vahanvata Association, said, “We are going to meet in a day or two to decide on our stand regarding such a decree. There are some elements who are making deliberate attempts at vitiating the atmosphere.”

A local politician from Kutch also expressed his disappointment over the decree.

“Hindus and Muslims have been living in complete harmony since years in Mandvi. There are many Hindus who keep roza (fast) during Ramzan and Muslims join them with fervour in Ganesh Chaturthi. Such bans are in a very poor taste when there is no communal rift at all,” he said.

Photo Credits: Dandiya Zone

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