A group of youths from the Kanjarbhat community have joined hands to protest alleged unjust practices of their caste panchayat, such as demanding money to approve a marriage, and conducting a ‘virginity test’ of the bride on the first night after the wedding.
The youngsters have formed a WhatsApp group, ‘Stop the V-Ritual’, which has about 40 members.
‘V’ stands for ‘Virginity Test’, said Priyanka Tamaichekar, a Pune resident who is part of the group. “Even today, a virginity test of the bride is conducted in the Kanjarbhat community. The newly-married couple is taken to a hotel room. The groom is given a white bedsheet and is asked to use it while having sex. The caste panchayat members actually sit outside the room. If the groom comes out with a bedsheet with blood stains on it, the bride passes the test. But if the bedsheet has no blood stains, the panchayat members accuse the bride of having a physical relationship with a man in the past,” said Tamaichekar.
The ordeal of the bride doesn’t end there, said Tamaichekar, adding, “She is also punished as per the laws laid down by the caste panchayat… no such test is conducted on the groom… I have seen cases where a bride who fails the test is harassed and even beaten up… such practices should be stopped”.
Priyanka’s brother Vivek Tamaichekar, a Masters student at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, has formed the WhatsApp group. “I belong to the Kanjarbhat community and am getting married in May next year. My fiance and me are against this humiliating practice… we have declared that we would not be participating in it because it is against our right to live life with dignity and right to privacy… but just opposing it was not enough. So, we held a meet of all the members of the WhatsApp group in Akurdi on December 3 to plan an awareness campaign,” he said.
On November 25 this year, one of the members of the WhatsApp group, Siddhant Indrekar (21), a resident of Kanjarbhat Nagar in Yerwada, had also filed a complaint against the caste panchayat at the Vishrantwadi police station.
Siddhant, a student of Nowrosjee Wadia College, claimed that he had recorded an incident, in which members of the caste panchayat accepted Rs 10,000 from a bride and a groom to approve their marriage, in Tingre Nagar on November 23. “I have submitted the video to police along with my complaint, demanding registration of an offence under sections of the Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. I also submitted a copy of laws framed by our caste panchayat as per which the panch members pass diktats during any event… from marriage to funerals…But, on December 8, police replied that my complaint has been disposed as no evidence was found,” he said.
On December 13, Siddhant, along with Nandini Jadhav, district president of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS), held a meeting with Deputy Commissioner of Police Deepak Sakore. They submitted complaints, with signatures from 33 members of the Kanjarbhat community, who said they wanted to stop these ‘virginity tests’.
“After Siddhant’s complaint, a meeting of Kanjarbhat community members was called at Vishrantwadi police station on November 29. Community members admitted that the caste panchayat is active, and money is taken for various rituals. Shockingly, some women openly supported the virginity test. But police did not take any action… however, DCP Sakore has assured that he will look into the matter,” said Nandini Jadhav.
Hasan Malke, a member of the Kanjarbhat caste panchayat for Pune district, refuted claims about the panchayat conducting ‘virginity tests’. “We take money from married couples only for conducting rituals that are traditionally carried out in the community. There is no misappropriation… the caste panchayat is not involved in conducting virginity tests… it is up to the bride and groom to do what they want…,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines