Come Navratri and Dandiya and Garba nights are a common sight across cities in India. And hearteningly, Dandiya is not just restricted to the Gujarati
community, it is also inclusive of different religions. However, hard-line Hindu groups are out to exclude Muslims from celebrating Hindu festivals in a bid “to
stop incidents of ‘love jihad’ where Muslim boys lure and marry Hindu girls.”
On Saturday, right-wing Bajrang Dal activists asked organisers of traditional Garba and Dandiya events in Hyderabad to conduct mandatory checks of Aadhaar cards of those participating in the festivities. In an open letter to the organisers, the Hindutva group said that the entry of non-Hindu youths in the events should be checked.
Further, the letter claimed that during the past couple of years, non-Hindu youths were entering such events and misbehaving with the women participants.
Such youths were also apparently manhandling men who came to the rescue of the alleged victims. “Also, the said miscreants used these events as places to trap innocent girls, thus leading to love jihad cases,” the letter alleged.
Should religion really play such a big part in the festivities? The annual, nine-night Navratri which began on Sunday, is marked by celebrations involving prayers, music and dance. Not just that, it is marked by fervor and camaraderie and enjoyed even by members of other religious communities.
“We must celebrate festivals together to uplift our spirits and encourage oneness amongst all. There are women from all regions, religions, castes and creed who
work together to organise and celebrate the festival. There’s no harm in showing Aadhaar Card at the entry as a part of security measures but certainly not to stop
non-Hindus from participating in Dandiya. If one is so concerned, we can have CCTV cameras to check the mischief,” says Bina Mehta, one of the organisers of
Meanwhile, the activists have stated that they will be keeping a close vigil at the Garba/Dandiya venues across the city.
Terming it “abominable and illegal”, medical practitioner Dr Sophiya Sujad says, “This blatant show of fanaticism and segregation is a black mark on the very
ideals our Constitution rests on. Remember the term ‘secular’? This group and other factions (regardless of religion) that promote such overt divisiveness and
hate should be strongly condemned by the government. How different is this from segregation during the pre-independence era? Besides, festivals are not just an
offspring of religion but of culture and a lot of non-Hindus celebrate and partake in the festivities of Navratri. It’s shocking that this group actually has the guts
and feels safe to express such a bigoted attitude so openly.”
Minal Vakharia, organiser of one of the biggest Garba events, says, “Garba and Dandiya are not just celebrated by Gujaratis and Rajasthanis, Navratri has become a national festival. And as our Prime Minister says, ‘India is a country where every festival is celebrated by everyone.’ They (Bajrang Dal) might be right in their thinking, but they can’t impose a ban.”
While many believe that the Bajrang Dal’s diktat touches the heights of racism, discrimination and hatred, the right-wing outfit is quick to defend their stand.
“Just ask your Muslim friends if they can invite you to their mosques. Dandiya and Garba are not places for entertainment, it’s a way of worshipping Maa
Durga,” says S. Kailash, media convenor, Bajrang Dal, adding, “No doubt they have been visiting these programmes since many years, but it’s only when our
culture is disturbed and misused that objections have cropped up. Each year, incidents of misbehaviour and love jihad are on the rise. We don’t believe in
appeasement politics, the sole aim is to protect Dharma from any type of attack. Our culture was never intolerant and will never be.”
Interestingly, this is not the first time that the Bajrang Dal has passed such a diktat. Earlier too, Hindus entering the Garba and Dandiya venues were sprinkled
with cow urine and tilak was applied on their forehead to ensure that the restrictions would hold good.