After Series of Attacks, Dalits in Gujarat Celebrate Navratri With 'Ambedkar Garba'

"It took me five years to convince people in my village that praying to Ambedkar is better than praying to gods and goddesses," said Mangalbhai, who organised the garba.

New Delhi: Even as Gujarat saw a series of attacks on Dalits over the last week, 100 Dalit families from Rampura village in Ahmedabad district celebrated Navratri with an ‘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,” Kanu Sumesara Mangalbhai, the main organiser of the event, told the Indian Express.

Mangalbhai, who runs a decoration business for birthdays and weddings, said that the garba had been a difficult idea to implement as there are also many upper caste families in the village. The Dalits in the village, including Mangalbhai’s wife Hansa, were opposed to the idea at first. But with increasing atrocities and discrimination, Hansa felt her husband was right.

“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. He spent Rs 70,000 on the 10-day event from the Rs 3-4 lakh he earns annually from his business.

Also read: In Gujarat, Dalits Under Attack for Watching Garba, Sporting Moustache

He explained that the teachings of Ambedkar were empowering for him, which is what made him think of organising the garba. 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,” reported the Indian Express.

The event comes after three Dalit boys were attacked in Gujarat in the last week, allegedly by people from upper castes. A youth was killed in the state’s Anand district for watching garba at a temple. On Tuesday evening, In Gandhinagar district, another Dalit youth was attacked for sporting a moustache.

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