Three Times Garba Stoked Segregation Rather Than Unity In India This Year

Garba controversy has raised questions. When do festivities give rise to law and order issues? Is women's safety ensured at these nights of celebration?

Tanvi Akhauri
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The last thing the festivals of Navratri and Dussehra - both celebrations of peace and prosperity - needed was a sludge of negativity. But a recently erupted Garba controversy has done just that. What was supposed to be a traditional evening of dance and merrymaking at a Madhya Pradesh college campus quickly turned tense when a right-wing extremist group raised concerns of 'love jihad', which led to the arrest of four men over the weekend.

Not just this, there has been more than one instance of trouble brewing around Navratri galas in the country this week. On social media, these incidents in succession have sparked much outrage - with different sections offering different sides of the argument - and raised questions. When do festivities give rise to law and order issues? Is women's safety ensured at these nights of celebration? Are these events becoming breeding grounds of intolerance and oppression?

Garba Controversy: 3 Instances Of When Festivities Went Sour

1. Garba 'love jihad' allegations 

As per reports from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, four men were arrested Sunday night for alleged "public nuisance" at a Garba event organised by Oxford College. Police action came following accusations by right-wing members of Bajrang Dal claiming the men's presence at the Hindu celebration where 'young women' were collected promoted 'love jihad.'

Of late, the communal idea of 'love jihad' has gained prominence among majority religious circles that accuse Muslims of hatching a conversion conspiracy. Experts have challenged the allegations many times saying no such proof of such conspiracy exists.

In the Indore Garba controversy that ensued after saffron members raised issues, two men were students of the college while the other two were their friends. The Superintendent of Police (Indore West) reportedly said the arrests were unfair and occurred despite his orders against them.


2. "Non-Hindu" Garba posters in Madhya Pradesh 

Even as the noise around the Madhya Pradesh college event hadn't subsided, reports from the state on Monday claimed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad - a saffron group closely affiliated to the Sangh Parivar and its subsections - had put up posters at certain venues that sought to bar "non-Hindus" from entering Garba events.

A spokesperson for VHP, as quoted by Hindustan Timessaid, "We are putting posters as a section of people from other communities harass Hindu women or shoot their videos without permission." These posters have reportedly popped up in pandals across Ratlam where Garba and Navratri are taking place.

3. Scheduled Caste women stopped from playing Garba 

In a deeply disturbing incident in Vadodara, Gujarat, two women from the Scheduled Caste community were allegedly abused and turned away from a Garba event over the weekend. As per allegations by the family, they were "humiliated" by the upper-caste Garba organisers in Savli.

Those targeted involve a woman and an 11-year-old girl, who were told they could not play Garba with the rest of the villagers. A case was registered under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on the complaint of a family member and reports suggest three accused have been arrested.

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