Hindu organisations, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), have made elaborate arrangements to keep Muslims in Godhra out of garba venues during the Navratri festival, toeing the line of VHP leader Pravin Togadia and Madhya Pradesh BJP vice-president and MLA from Indore, Usha Thakur, who recently expressed similar views apparently to counter the bogey of ‘love jihad’.
A newly floated body, Hindu Asmita Hitrakshak Samiti, has even created a team of “volunteers” who will ensure that no Muslim youth are allowed inside the festival venue, claiming that the festival is a religious gathering. The organisation, which is yet to register itself, enjoys support from the VHP, senior VHP leader from Godhra Ashish Bhatt said. The 9-day Navratri festival begins on September 25.
“Muslims are always against anything related to India, be it national anthem, national flag, and they largely keep themselves away from Hindu festivals, then why should they be so keen on participating in garbas? They do so to lure Hindu girls. We are here to oppose such intrusions and stop them. A team of volunteers will work in this direction and will patrol the venues of garba events,” said Jaimin Shah, a member of the organisation.
Bhatt said the concern raised by the organisation is genuine. “Our wives, daughters and sisters participate in garba as a religious event. It’s not a social gathering. So, the presence of Muslims makes no sense. Last year, too, we had asked around half a dozen Muslim youths to leave the venue as they might have created nuisance,” he said.
Organisers of garba events in Godhra said select Muslims of the city are given invitation cards to attend the events but they have always been of the view that the event is a part of Hindu religious festival and hence Muslims should not be allowed here.
A Muslim councillor at Godhra municipality, Akram Patel, said the directive to not allow Muslims is baseless as it has been passed by a handful of people who are not elected representatives of the city. “I have personally been getting invitation from the organisers every year and no untoward incident has ever taken place at the venues. So, the fear is baseless,” he said.