Several posters prohibiting ‘non-Hindus’ from entering garba venues came up in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar town Thursday, the first night of Navratri festival.
Police removed the posters hours after they were put up at the entrance of several venues in the town. BJP MLA Usha Thakur had started the campaign to ban Muslim men from attending garba events from Indore, 75 km from Dhar.
Dhar SP Bhagwant Singh Chouhan told The Indian Express that the posters — which stated, “Non-Hindus are not allowed inside garba pandal” — appeared to have been put up by the same group. He said the posters were issued in the name of “garba organising committee, Dhar”, but no individual had taken responsibility for putting them up. No case has been registered so far, he added.
The SP also admitted that organisers had posted volunteers at garba venues to check identity cards of people. Official orders asking for ID cards at garba events were first issued in Ujjain and Indore.
Hindu activists, meanwhile, said several posters were still up at various venues. “All those who believe in Hindu ideology are behind the posters. All of us have heard about ‘love jihad’ and what Muslims do at garba venues, so we want to stop their entry,” said Gopal Sharma, an office-bearer of the right-wing organisation Bhoj Utsava Samiti.
Dhar is home to the Bhojshala-Kamal Maula Masjid, which both Hindu and Muslim communities claim as their own. The Archaeological Survey of India has worked out an arrangement to ensure that both communities offer prayers on separate days.
Sharma said that garba organisers are letting in men after applying a tilak on their forehead. “Muslim men will be allowed to watch the dance only when they bring female family members,” he said. He added that no Muslim men turned up for garba on Thursday night after the posters were put up at the venues.
Meanwhile, there was a minor scuffle between police and members of a Hindu organisation in Indore late Thursday night.
Tejram, a resident of Depalpur who was arrested by the NIA in connection with a terror case and is currently out on bail, and two other men were stopped by the police because all three were travelling on one bike.
When the police official took away their bike key, they objected and reportedly said that they were out to check if Muslims were being allowed entry into garba events.