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, a 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.
He said several volunteers have joined the organisation with the sole aim to keep a check on Muslims entering the venue. “Godhra is probably the epicentre of love jihad. This has been the case in the city since long but this year, we have decided to take action against it,” he said.
Senior VHP leader from Godhra, Ashish Bhatt, said that 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.
Two large garba events are organised in Godhra every year — Ardh Shakti Garma and Ma Shakti Garba. The former is organised with the support of the Panchmahals police. This year, a police headquarters ground has been selected as the venue of for the event.
Organiser A P Parikh said that select Muslims of the city are given invitation cards to attend the event, but the organisers have always been of the view that the event is a part of Hindu religious festival and hence, Muslims should not be allowed here. “We do not distribute passes for the event among Muslims and neither do we seek any donation for the same from Muslims. We have been approached by the members of the Hindu Asmita Hitrakshak Samiti who fear love jihad may be on the mind of the Muslim youths visiting the garba events. For the last six years, since we started the event, the venue would be a sports complex. But, this year, we have kept police headquarters ground as the venue with special security arrangements such as security guards and CCTV cameras to avoid any untoward incident,” Parikh said.