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All the religions and cultures that celebrate Navratri have started their celebrations with much excitement and splendor as the festival draws near. Garba, a form of dance that originated in Gujarat, is a significant part of such celebrations, as garba events are organized across different cities with varying scales of magnitude. During one such organization of events in the city of Ujjain, a decision was passed that prohibits non-Hindus from attending the event in order to prevent any love jihad incidents. Love-jihad is a term that is used to describe “alleged interfaith romantic relationships that some claim are attempts at forced religious conversion.”
The aforementioned event is happening for the fifth time in a row at a place that is close to Nanakheda on the Indore-Ujjain road. Over 5,000 people are said to come every year to attend the event. The organizer of the event, Sankalp Sanskrit Sanstha, has also said that every male participant will be welcomed with a tilak on his head. Bahadur Singh Rathore, who is the President of the Sanstha, has commented that “the tilak will deter non-Hindus, thus exposing them”.
In addition to this, every attendee will also have to bring their Aadhar card in order to get entry. The credentials on the Aadhar card will help to identify the identity of the participants. Mr. Rathore has said that the special conditions that are being imposed are done so as “to stop love-jihad and restrict entry to those who are trying to spread animosity, but we are not against any religion.” He claimed that these gatherings become a space for non-Hindus to lure Hindu women into marrying them, TOI reports.
Ujjain Garba Event: What did the administration say?
Law enforcement authorities and administration have endorsed these decisions by saying that since the event organized by Sankalp Sanskrit Sansthan is a private affair and since they solely are responsible for giving passes for entry into the event, “What is the objection in this?”. However, District Collector Kumar Purushottam has said that he was not aware of any such decision, and if any complaint is launched, he will review it in accordance with what the law states.
The decisions taken by the organization seem to be influenced by a controversy that happened during a garba event in Undhela village of the Kheda district of Gujarat. On October 3, 2022, around 150-200 people allegedly attacked a garba event that was happening in Swaminarayan Temple by pelting stones at people. These people were supposedly from the Muslim community who objected to the event as it was happening near a mosque.
After this incident, the police force brought at least four detainees, tied them to an electric pole, and thrashed them with lathis in full public view. Many images circulated online showed that the suspected people apologized to the public with folded hands after the police ordered them to do so. On October 4, after an FIR was registered at Matar police station, thirteen Muslim people were arrested in this case.
Four men who were publicly flogged sought contempt proceedings against the policemen involved. One woman also alleged illegal detention. On October 4, 2023, the Gujarat High Court charged the four policemen with civil contempt under the Contempt of Courts Act, sentencing them to 14 days of imprisonment.