14 Muslims held in MP within a week for entering garba venues | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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14 Muslims held in MP within a week for entering garba venues

Oct 04, 2022 01:51 AM IST

At least 14 Muslim men have been arrested by the police in the past one week in Indore after Bajrang Dal vigilantes handed them over to police because they entered venues where Garba was being performed as part of the festivities to celebrate Navratri.

Bhopal: At least 14 Muslim men have been arrested by the police in the past one week in Indore after Bajrang Dal vigilantes handed them over to police because they entered venues where Garba was being performed as part of the festivities to celebrate Navratri.

The development came after statements by the state’s culture and home minister Usha Thakur on the undesirability of Muslim men visiting Garba venues. (AFP)
The development came after statements by the state’s culture and home minister Usha Thakur on the undesirability of Muslim men visiting Garba venues. (AFP)

The 14 men have been booked under section 151 (knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace) of the Indian Penal Code at different police precincts. These men were clicking pictures and disturbing the peace, police said.

The development came after statements by the state’s culture and home minister Usha Thakur on the undesirability of Muslim men visiting Garba venues.

“Garba pandals are becoming medium of love jihad and those who don’t have any faith in Maa Durga shouldn’t go to Garba,” state culture minister Usha Thakur had said on September 9. Love jihad is a right-wing conspiracy theory that accuses Muslim men of luring Hindu women into interfaith marriages in order to convert them.

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After Thakur’s statement, state home minister Narottam Mishra on September27 announced that it was necessary to show identity cards before entering Garba venues.

The Bajrang Dal will not allow Muslims in Garba venues, the outfit’s state convener Tanu Sharma said on September 27 in Indore. “Non-Hindus don’t have faith on goddess Durga and go to Garba to click pictures of women and to pass comment on them,” Sharma said. “For the security of women, we launched this campaign.”

Opposition parties in the state called this an attempt to create a rift in society.

On September 27, seven Muslim men were apprehended by Bajrang Dal members while they were taking pictures at a Garba venue in Pandrinath. They were handed over police at Pandrinath police station. Police arrested them under section 151 and later released them on bail, said Satish Patel, town inspector, Pandrinath police station.

A day after this incident, a Muslim man was arrested in a Garba venue at Palsikar Colony in Ravji Bazar police station, and another from a pandal in Khajrana. On Saturday, three Muslim men were arrested from Nandlal Puri Sabjimandi Garba Pandal by MG Road police and two Muslims from Bihar were arrested from Pandrinath garba pandal on Sunday night. All the accused were arrested under 151.

“For peaceful celebration of Navratri, we deployed police at different places,” said Rajat Saklecha, deputy commissioner of police, intelligence, Indore. “We also held meetings with peace committees and organisers to inform police immediately in case of any ruckus.”

“In Pandrinath, Rawji Bazar, MG Road and Khajrana, we received information that a few people entered the pandal by hiding their identity and were creating a nuisance. Police arrested them immediately,” Saklecha said. “The action was taken for disturbing the peace.”

The Muslim men declined to talk to the media.

However, opposition and community leaders said this was an attempt to divide society and end the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, a syncretic culture that unites communities of different faiths.

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“This is nothing but an attempt to end Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb of India. We never support goons. If anyone creates a ruckus or misbehaves, they should be punished, but targeting members of a community just on the basis of religion is unacceptable,” said Haroon Rashid Qureshi, a community leader from Indore.

“I many times attended the garba as a guest and my daughter also participated in it,” Qureshi said. “We learnt about Hindu culture. A few people are trying to segregate the society on the basis of religion.”

“This is vigilantism and also against the Constitution of India,” said Congress spokesperson KK Mishra. “How could Bajrang Dal or an organiser can stop anyone from entering a pandal on the basis of religion? How can they call every Muslim a goon or miscreant? I know many Muslims who give donation for Durga Pandals. Garba is a part of Indian culture, not of Hindus only.”

“A few people are trying to make a very restricted society,” civil society member LS Hardenia said. “If it is a private affair, the organiser can restrict entry, but why police are taking action? This is a sensitive matter and will leave a deep impact on society.”

Home minister Mishra, who earlier said police are taking action according to law, couldn’t be contacted for comments.

However, BJP MP Pragya Thakur and former chief minister Uma Bharti supported Usha Thakur and said Garba is matter of faith and heretic people shouldn’t be allowed in venues where the dances are performed.

Uma Bharti said, “Those, who can’t recite Jai Mata di, shouldn’t allow to enter Garba pandal.”

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