NEW DELHI: Garba organisers and the Hindu Sangathan Yuva Morcha, a VHP associated local saffron outfit in Mandvi taluka of Kutch, Gujarat, have instituted some strange rules this navratri.

For one, Muslims have been banned from all garba venues.

Hindus entering the garba venues are mandated to sprinkle cow urine on themselves and apply a tilak on their foreheads.

Although people of all religions other than Hindus have been banned, the concern seems to be more directly related to Muslims with organisers linking the decision to concerns of “Love Jihad.”

Raghuvirsinh Jadeja of the Hindu Sangathan Yuva Morcha told the Times of India, “We had banned the entry of people from other religions last year itself and framed these strict rules. But these are being more pronounced this year… Navratri is a religious festival in which devotees worship the deity of strength for nine days. We are also concerned over the rising number of cases of love jihad.”

Jadeja also told the TOI that the members of the organization will fan out across all the garba venues and ensure that no Muslims are present there.

Local Muslim leader Azam Angadia, who is vice-president of the Kutch Vahanvata Association, told TOI, "We are going to meet in a day or two to decide on our stand regarding such a decree. There are some elements who are making deliberate attempts at vitiating the atmosphere."

Last year, VHP leader Pravin Togadia had demanded that Muslims be banned from garba events, and that the identity cards of every person entering the venue of garba events must be checked at the door. “Navratri is the festival of Mother Amba's prayers and worship, so we cannot allow beef-eating Muslims to enter into Garba places," Togadia had said.

Usha Thakur, a legislator from Indore and the BJP's state vice president had echoed the same demand last year, using Love Jihad as the reason, as Muslims could enter the event and "seduce Hindu girls.”

Last month, Thakur said that Muslims should not visit any Durga pandal as the Quran prohibits idol worship. "The Quran says that the worshipping of idols is prohibited. Therefore, any true Muslim should not go to any Durga pandal," Thakur said, adding that the Durga Puja and Garba are not sources of entertainment.

This latest attempt at dividing India into Hindus, Muslims and other religions, comes as a brutal incident played out in UP’s Dadri district. Earlier this week, a mob beat to death a fifty five year old Muslim man and critically injured his son after rumours surfaced that the family was eating beef. BJP leaders from UP, where the murder took place, condoned or at least excused the violence.

Vice President of the BJP’s west UP unit Shrichand Sharma said “when we hurt people’s sentiments, such clashes take place. This was not a communal riot. The Hindu community worships cows. Whose blood won’t boil if they see cow slaughter.”

A former legislator from Dadri Nawab Singh Nagar spoke in the same aggressive vein maintaining that the family was at fault. “It is obvious that such an incident will lead to anger among people and there will be communal tension. If this was the case, the family is in the wrong. If they have consumed beef, they are also responsible. This is a village of Thakurs and they express their sentiments in a very strong way. If they have done this, they should have kept in mind what the reaction would be,” he said.

The developments of the last few days make me ask the only pertinent question: Is this the India we want to live in?