Standing beside her husband, 18-year-old Jyoti Gehlot looked somewhat dazed, traces of disbelief on her face. A veil concealed the fact that the long hair that she sported until a few days ago was unevenly cropped short.
Her husband, Manish Mahawar (22), was beaming as he recited mantras after the priest. The guests occasionally let off peels of laughter amid some light-hearted banter.
After all, it was a match that threats, constant intimidation, and even alleged electric shocks, had failed to snap.
At the wedding, on the first floor of Rajasthan State Commission for Women (SCW) office, Jyoti said, “I had met Manish around four years ago at a Navratri event near our home in Jhotwara. We liked each other and soon became friends. When my parents and other family members learnt about this, they didn’t agree.”
The disapproval meant threats for Manish, who comes from the Scheduled Caste community. Jyoti’s family belongs to the Scheduled Tribes.
Manish alleged, “Her parents came to our home in February this year and asked me to stay away from her…. They gave me death threats. I used to work as a ward boy at a private hospital earlier. I had to quit because of the intimidation.” He now helps organise events.
Mainish said that for a month after this, he didn’t have any communication with Jyoti, as her parents kept a close watch on her. Jyoti said, “My parents caught me speaking with Manish over the phone on May 14… After that, they, along with my brother, cut my hair, beat me and also gave me electric shocks. I somehow managed to escape.”
After Jyoti contacted activists at the Mahila Suraksha Seva Kendra, near Jaipur railway station, activists submitted a police complaint following a medical test on Jyoti and called both families for counselling. “We spoke with both sides and it was evident that the boy and the girl wanted to get married,” said Nisha Sidhu, general secretary, Rajasthan Progressive Women’s Federation. “Finally, fearing legal action, the girl’s family agreed for the marriage. The SCW also intervened and we felt that we should help the couple to get married.”
At the impromptu wedding ceremony, parents of the bride chose not to speak much. Manish’s father Roshan Lal said, “I am very happy…. We wholeheartedly accept her (Jyoti) in our family.”
SCW chairperson Suman Sharma said, “After extensive counselling with both families, we felt this is the best course of action. We will regularly monitor to make sure they are happy.”