Ahmedabad: Right-wing groups in Gujarat have called for restricting entry of non-Hindus to Garba venues but at the state government's forthcoming annual Navratri festival, it is some Muslims who are working round the corner to make the event a success.
In Ahmedabad, 42-year-old Ankur Pathan is busy giving tips to Garba artists as the Vibrant Navratri festival is barely a week away. He is part of the troupe that handles choreography at the annual event. A Garba dancer himself, Mr Pathan shifted to teaching a few years ago, but the diktat by some fringe right-wing groups doesn't seem to bother him.
"I am a Gujarati... was born here... for me doing Garba, teaching artists, is like worship. I take part in the festival for nine nights and adopt all the rituals which are adhered to during the festival and I will continue to do that," Mr Pathan says.
At the Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Limited Ground where the annual Vibrant Navratri festival will be held, Mr Pathan is not the only one from the minority community taking part whole-heartedly in preparations. A painter, Ghulam Nabi has been working overtime to add a dash of colour to the venue.
"I love being part of this celebration. I do colour work here, also make material out of thermacol, dhols and other items which are related to the event," he said.
Right-wing groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or VHP, like every year, this year as well have ordered non-Hindus to stay away from Garba venues, but even Garba organisers aren't willing to toe the line.
"This is an event which had made the state popular... it is a brand in itself and people from every religion and caste attend it. Such diktats only sully our image," said Garba organiser Manish Sharma.
While the fringe groups have threatened to enforce their diktat, Gujaratis seem to be giving a thumbs down to their call - they say it is not a religious event but a cultural event which only adds to the pride of the state.