“Waah mazaa aa gaya (This is fun)”, “Aaj hume garv ho raha hai (We are proud today)”: these are some of the words that echoed sentiments of around 300 people in a marriage procession passing through Nizampur village —about 15 km from Kasganj in Uttar Pradesh — on Sunday evening. The baraatis have a reason to be elated. Never before has a Dalit man’s marriage procession been allowed to pass through the Thakur-dominated village the bride, also a Dalit, hails from.
As the marriage party danced to Bollywood numbers, about 200 police personnel flanked them with batons, guns, and tear gas shells.
The groom, 27-year-old Sanjay Jatav of Basai village in Hathras district — an hour from Nizamabad — eventually reached the house of the bride Sheetal.
This was a culmination of a six-month-long struggle by both families that involved multiple meetings with the authorities and even a plea in the Allahabad High Court.
“We never thought we could go this far… It all started in December when Thakurs objected to our proposal. I and Sanjay met several authorities, but it did not work out. Even the High Court did not give us a solution,” said Sheetal’s brother Beetu Jatav.
He said the marriage was to take place in April, but the Thakurs convinced the authorities that Sheetal was a minor.
“Ultimately, a consensus was reached that on July 5 my sister would be a major, although she is 21-year-old. However, we agreed,” said Beetu, sitting under a tent in the farm field beside his house as he gave directions to the workers to set up bulbs in the tent.
Beetu was happy, but still apprehensive. “Abhi toh kuch nahi hoga, lekin hume dar hai ki baad mein Thakur log hamara bahishkar na kar de (Nothing will happen now, but we fear that the Thakurs may boycott us later,” he said. He has reasons to fear: there are only six Jatav houses in the entire village. Previously, a Thakur who owned the tubewell had stopped water supply to his farmland.
Sheetal too appeared happy. “Finally, the marriage is going to happen,” she said.
On Sunday morning at Basai village, a man asked The Indian Express: “Kisse milna hai. DM se?” Sanjay said “DM” means “Dholak Master” and explained that his teacher named him “DM” after he mastered playing Dholak. Mehendi in his hands, he said at least 50 vehicles will be part of his marriage party. “We have struggled a lot. The problem is not just mine, it is there in most parts of UP. Caste ke naam pe kuch bhi ho raha hai.”
Sanjay is a member of gram panchayat and aims to win the pradhan seat in the coming elections. He claimed that even the Thakurs of his village will be part of the celebrations.
However, when The Indian Express spoke to people from the Thakur community in Basai, they said that although they had received an invitation, they won’t be part of the marriage as it is matter of their “pride”.
In the afternoon in Nizamabad, around 250 policemen kept vigil to avoid any conflict. Circle Officer, Kasganj
City, Gavendra Gautam, said, “It will be a peaceful. We have tight security.”
Around 5.43 pm, the marriage party entered Nizamabad in cars. Sanjay then got on a horse-driven carriage for the rest of the path to the bride’s home.
“I am surprised that in the 21st century, we had to struggle for six months just to climb into a horse driven carriage. This is my right and I have achieved it. The authorities seem to be managing well,” he told mediapersons.