Fielding questions from reporters about their stand on right-wing outfits’ campaign against love jihad, Minesh Patel, in-charge of the event at the city’s most popular garba venue, the United Way of Baroda (UWB), said, “We will follow the guidelines laid down by Anandiben Patel here in Gujarat or Modiji in Delhi. We have been closely associated with Modiji and so we will adhere to any orders issued in this regard. So far, we have not received any such guidelines.” The organizers, however, said they were not denying passes to applicants providing valid I-D proof.
Although UWB has made it mandatory for participants to register online after submitting a valid photo identity proof for the last couple of years, this year there has been stress on providing photo I-D proofs for male participants across garba venues. Patel said the I-D proof gathered by UWB was for their record. “We have a system where we know the exact details of the players who are registering with us.
The price for a male entry is Rs 2500 and for females it is a refundable Rs 200. I am not sure if we have received any entries from people from other communities as we have not yet gone through the list, but one thing is sure that no one can get passes without providing a valid identity proof,” Patel says. The UWB has already seen a registration of 18,000 females and 7,000 male participants so far.
The Karelibaug Samuh Garba Mahotsav, organised at the Karelibaug Sports and Cultural Association (KSCA) ground, has sought police help to deal with “romeos from the minority community”. The association has taken to online registration of male participants this year, with a submission of a valid photo I-D in order to be able to collect forms. Girls get in free. The organisers, however, say that they have retained the discretion to give out forms to desiring participants only if they are satisfied with the I-D proofs. “So far, we haven’t given out forms to Muslim participants,” an organiser says.
The organisers here have also installed additional CCTV cameras to spot suspected “romeo” male participants. Manoj Patel, a Municipal Corporator and a member of the association, says, When everyone comes in traditional clothes, we cannot identify them by religion.
Many Muslims come with their sisters, who wish to play garbas, and are dressed traditionally. But with the I-D proofs in place, they will not be able to register in fake names. We have decided to issue smart cards for players that will help them through the nine days. We have asked for police security. If we find any boy from the minority community lurking around in the crowds, we will first request him to leave and then hand him over to the police.”
Organisers feel that daily passes that do not require registration by I-D proof will be a “loophole” that will need to be “covered”. Patel says, “We keep about 500 passes for daily players who do not want to register for all nine days. At the venue, we have installed CCTVs at the pass counter, which will help us keep a check on suspicious people.”
Another organizer, Maa Shakti Garba, is also maintaining caution while handing out passes to male participants. “We have not yet received any request from Muslims to give them passes, but if we do, we will consult our higher members and decide,” says Bhavesh, who is looking after the distribution of passes through associated outlets in the city where male participants must submit I-D proofs.
City police has upped its ante on patrol around garba venues. Active anti-romeo squads and anti-rioting squads, along with the SRPF and RAF, will be on standby. Commissioner of Police E Radhakrishana said, “The garba ground is a private event and we have given the organisers licences on the condition that they will provide security, frisking of luggage and people, CCTV cameras, alternative power supply, fire accident requirements. We will have our squads in place for vehicle checking, riot prevention and any untoward incidents. We have no role to play in the allotment of passes. We understand that as per law entry to a garba event can be by pass or ticket and not on the basis of religion. That would be illegal and we have to maintain harmony.”