Gujarat: Muslims barred from garba events in Bharuch

Organisers of the two events also include Muslims; decision follows protests by VHP

By: Express News Service | Surat | Updated: September 21, 2016 2:56 am
gujarat, gujrat garba, gujarat muslms, muslims garba, gujarat muslims garba, gujarat news, gujarat navratri, navratri, india news Women practise garba ahead of the Navratri festival in Ahmedabad Tuesday. (Express Photo by Javed Raja)

The organisers of two garba events in Gujarat’s Bharuch district have decided not to allow Muslims at the venue after protests from the VHP. The Bharuch unit of the VHP opposed two garba events which also have Muslims as their organisers. The VHP members handed over a memorandum to district collector, seeking to ban Muslims at the event over “security” and “law and order” issues. The organisers of the first event, a real estate group which also has a Muslim partner, Tuesday said it will check the identity of ticket seekers for the event which is scheduled to be held in October. The real estate group’s partners include: Jaydeepsinh Raj, Jasu Patel and Asif Patel. They are organising a mega garba event at Dudhara dairy ground in Bharuch. Among those invited to the nine-day event, “Raas-e-Bharuch”, include actors Jackie Shroff and Zarine Khan.

The second event is being organised by Shehzada Shaikh, a social worker, in partnership with two others from the majority community whose names he did not disclose. This event is scheduled to be held at Sonal party plot on College Road.

Jaydeepsinh Raj, organiser of “Raas-e-Bharuch”, said, “We partnered with Asif Patel because he has good relations with Bollywood celebrities. Because the VHP is opposing the event, we removed our original banners (for the event) and put up new ones which do not have Asif’s name on them. We have also contacted two private security agencies — one from Bharuch and another from Ahmedabad — for deployment of security personnel on the garba grounds. We will not issue or sell passes to Muslims and the tickets will be given to participants only after they show an identity card. We have also applied for police permission and it will come shortly.”

Viral Desai, VHP joint secretary (south Gujarat), who is based in Bharuch, met Bharuch District Collector Sandip Sagale, along with other VHP members, and handed over a memorandum, demanding not to give permission to Muslim organisers of the garba event in the town.

Asif Patel, who also is a choreographer and runs a local newspaper, said, “We decided to organise a big Navratri event by inviting Bollywood celebrities. The proceeds from the funds raised through this event will be used in building steps and infrastructure for pilgrims going to Chitra Mata temple on the banks of Narmada river. Our motive was to build communal harmony by orgnaising this event.” However, after the VHP protests, Asif Patel said he will not allow Muslims. “After the VHP’s opposition, we have decided that Muslims should not enter the ground. We will not sell passes or tickets to Muslims. I’m director of the company and my name on the banner was obvious. But since they have objected, we have decided to remove my name. If they demand that I should not enter the ground, I will not be at the venue,” said Asif Patel, adding that the the passes for the event are available at Rs 1,200 (for all nine days).

Desai, in his memorandum, cited the Uri terror attacks on Army headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir and said that Gujarat was always on high alert. He also cited the murder of BJP leaders Shirish Bengali and Pragnesh Mistry last year, detected by the NIA as an operation by the underworld. The memorandum further said, “Garba festival is important and our religious feelings are attached to it. Some Muslims have taken this festival as a business opportunity and with the help of Hindu partners, they have organised two such events in Bharuch. The motive is clear as they wanted to earn money by organsing it and have thus invited Bollywood celebrities.”

Talking to The Indian Express, Desai said, “Through the memorandum, we have demanded that such event should not be orgnaised as it will damage the peaceful atmosphere of the Bharuch town. If Muslims are organising such an event, many Muslims will enter which will lead to eve-teasing. Our religious feelings will be hurt that’s why we have demanded that the collector should not give permission for such events.” Bharuch District Collector Sandip Sagale could not be reached for his comment.