With the holy festival of Navratri knocking at the door, Madhya Pradesh is churning with the question of whether Muslim participation in Garba should be acceptable to Hindus. Soon after a Hindu organisation said Muslims would not be allowed inside such venues, Madhya Pradesh Minister for Tourism and Culture Usha Thakur said that Garba programmes had become hubs of love jihad. She said, "Muslims will be welcomed to join Garba if their sacred scripture Quran permits them to pursue idol worship."
The minister said that they (Muslims) were not being invited to Garba, but if "they are so high in faith for the Garba, they should have faith in murti puja also, which should be allowed by their sacred scripture Quran as well".
"Also, Muslim men, who have faith in pursuing idol worship will only be welcomed at Garba venues, if they come along with their female family members," Thakur told reporters in Bhopal last evening.
The minister, however, reiterated that no one would be allowed at any Garba venue across the state without authentic identity proofs. "We are writing to all district collectors, requesting them to ensure that entry at Garba during the coming Navratri celebrations is only allowed to those, who carry authentic ID proofs. This will stop those who hide their actual identity from entering the Garba venues."
Last week, the minister had stated, "Garba had turned into a big medium of love jihad activities, but now all concerned stakeholders have become very alert about it. Just to ensure that no one enters the Garba venues by hiding their real identity, and no one should be allowed entry into the Garba pandals without proper ID proofs."
While asking the Garba organisers to ensure strict implementation of 'No Entry without ID proof at Garbas', the minister had said, "This is 'salaah' (advice) as well as 'naseehat' (instruction)."
In 2013, while she was the BJP MLA from Indore, Thakur had demanded a ban on the entry of non-Hindus, particularly Muslims at the Garba venues, ahead of Navratri celebrations — to prevent Muslim men from seducing Hindu girls and women. She had then demanded making Aadhaar and other ID proofs mandatory for entering the Garba venues to prevent Muslim men from entering the venues by posing themselves as Hindus.
In 2017, an umbrella group of Hindu festival organisers in Bhopal, the Hindu Utsav Samiti too had demanded from the district administration in the state capital to make possession of Aadhaar document necessary as the ID proof for entry into the Garba pandals to prevent the entry of non-Hindus (particularly Muslims) at those venues.
Garba, a seminal part of Navratri celebrations mainly in Gujarat but also in large parts of northern and central parts of the country, is organised across Madhya Pradesh during the Shardiya Navratri, but they are most popular in Malwa-Nimar/West Madhya Pradesh region, including Indore and adjoining districts.