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Attacks response: Dalits in Gujarat celebrate Navratri with Ambedkar Garba

Attacks response: Dalits in Gujarat celebrate Navratri with Ambedkar Garba
Garba performance. Pic: The Wire via Reuters

New Delhi: After a series of attacks on Dalits for watching Garba as well as for sporting moustache, 100 Dalit families of Gujarat over the last week in Ahmedabad’s village celebrated Navratri with ‘Ambedkar Garba’.

“This is the first time that something like this has happened in Gujarat. It took me five years to convince people in my village that praying to Ambedkar is better than praying to gods and goddesses. People in my community are very superstitious and believe that the gods will uplift them,” one of the Dalits in Rampura village in Ahmedabad district, Kanu Sumesara Mangalbhai, told the Indian Express.

Mangalbhai, the main organiser of the event, who runs a decoration business, said that organising Garba was a difficult idea to implement in presence of upper caste families in the village. The Dalits in the village, including Mangalbhai’s wife Hansa, first had opposed to perform any event. However, with an increase in attacks on Dalits for the petty reasons made them take the move.

Also Read: Dalits in Gujarat facing atrocities for watching Garba, sporting moustache

“Some told me that during Navratri, one has to pray to the goddess and replacing her would bring doom. But I kept telling them that the goddess is the same for everyone but in our village we are not allowed to dance during Navratri with members of the upper caste,” he told the Indian Express.

Mangalbhai made an expenditure of Rs 70,000 on the 10-day event out of his annual income of Rs 3-4 lakh.

While explaining the teachings of Ambedkar, he told they were empowering for him and led him to organise the event. The songs performed to at the event, written by Dalit activists Hemant Chauhan and Dashrat Salvi, were about the values that Ambedkar taught.

Mangalbhai said he had found them online and downloaded them. “The songs tell us to break the shackles of caste and ask us to fight for our rights.”

A school teacher from a nearby village described the event as a “revolution in its own way.”

Three Dalit boys were allegedly attacked by people from upper castes in Gujarat. A youth was killed in the state’s Anand district for watching Garba event at a temple. While, in Gandhinagar district, another Dalit youth was attacked for sporting a moustache on Tuesday.