A Dalit girl and her fiancé have decided to postpone their wedding by over two months after upper caste residents in her village in Kasganj district claimed she was a minor. Sheetal and Sanjay Kumar Jatav were scheduled to marry on April 20. However, a row broke out after upper caste Thakur residents objected to the wedding procession (baraat) that was to be taken out through Nizampur village.
Later last month, some upper caste families also questioned her age as, in her school records, she would turn 18 only on July 5.
Although the family claimed she was 20, Sheetal last week agreed to a district administration proposal for a medical test. After initial rounds of tests were, according to the family, “inconclusive”, they have now decided to shift the wedding.
“I was feeling very uncomfortable and ashamed about these tests. I do not want to be examined like this. So I have shifted the wedding to another date to avoid any problems with the authorities. I do not want any legal hassles,” said Sheetal.
Her brother Beetu said the tests were done in a government hospital earlier this week.
“We want her to be happy and we want the wedding ceremonies to go smoothly. Whether it is now or two months later. The situation is delicate right now and a compromise has been struck with great difficulty so we do not want to forcibly get our sister married when there is a question over her legal age,” Beetu said. “The wedding will be sometime in July. But the route and rules decided by the district authorities stands valid even then. We will have a grand wedding with a baraat procession taking a village route as promised to us.
The four policemen deployed in our village to ensure law and order will remain here.”
SP Kasganj Piyush Srivastav confirmed the change in plans. “But the date is not fixed. They have postponed it because the girl is a minor. Police will be deployed in the village for law and order reasons especially because of the recent rise in incidents of statues being vandalised. There is a Thakur statue in the village so we will be keeping a watch,” he said.
Sheetal’s family and Sanjay Jatav, a 27-year-old block development council member in neighbouring Hathras district, only last week won a battle for the right to lead the baraat through the village roads flanked by upper caste Thakur houses through a compromise brokered by the Kasganj district authorities.
As per the compromise which the 40 Thakur families represented by village pradhan Kanti Devi and the five Jatav families in the village have been asked to sign on Sunday with a promise to not indulge in violence, Sanjay Jatav was to take his baraat through a village route flanked by 18 Thakur houses.
The compromise was brokered by district authorities days after Allahabad High Court dismissed Jatav’s plea asking him to approach a district administration or police to get an FIR registered against anyone who was stopping him from using the village roads. Kumar, who belongs to Basai Babas village in Hathras district of western Uttar Pradesh, had moved the High Court on March 16 seeking an intervention on the issue when his letters to the district police and authorities and even CM Yogi Adityanath yielded no results over the past two months.
“Am I not a Hindu? When the Constitution says we are all equal, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath says we are all Hindus…why am I facing such a situation?” asked Kumar, a Block Development Council member.