‘Maari dikri maari aankh saame’, ‘Maari dikri maari najar samaksh’ (My daughter before my eyes). That’s what the garba banners in Godhra say.
To keep young women and girls “safe” from Muslim youth and ‘love jihad’ during the Navratri festivities, the BJP and RSS affiliates are urging Godhra residents to organise the traditional or sheri garba to restrict entry and “maintain the purity of the event”.
Ashish Bhatt, former VHP member who now heads the cultural cell of the Panchmahals district unit of the BJP, said: “Last year, we tried to keep out Muslims from venues of large, professional garba events to prevent love jihad. But we had little control over the entrants since such events are mostly for business purpose. Anyone can enter after purchasing a ticket.”
“To ensure safety of our mothers, sisters and daughters, we have encouraged residents to organise traditional garba so that the purity of the event is maintained,” Bhatt said.
An estimated 40 per cent of Godhra’s population — the epicentre of the 2002 Gujarat riots — is Muslim. Last year, a little-known Hindu organisation, Hindu Asmita Hit Rakshak Samiti, decided to stop Muslim youths from entering garba venues to “avoid instances of love jihad”.
Sheri garba is the traditional way of dancing in a small circle, usually on the streets and lanes of a residential colony where most participants know each other.
The Sheri Garba Samvardhan Samiti, an organisation formed in Godhra last year, has managed to persuade residents in favour of the sheri garba — 39 such events are being organised across Godhra as against one commercial garba event this year.
“Our organisation succeeded in reviving six sheri garba events last year. But this year, the effort has been to encourage organisers to go back to the traditional form on a much larger scale,” Bhatt, also a core member of the Sheri Garba Samvardhan Samiti, said.
“Garba is about idol worship and Muslims are against idol worship, so their visit to garba events adversely affects their own religion. We want that the place where our mothers, sisters, and daughters offer prayers should not have visitors from other religion. Navratri is not a fashion parade but shakti, bhakti and upasana of goddess Durga. We want to go back to our roots and organise it that way,” he said.