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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Pune: Kanjarbhat couple ties knot by rejecting ‘virginity test’

In their marriage invitation card, Vivek and Aishwarya had appealed to guests to participate in the marriage to strengthen their fight against the “virginity test”.

Written by Chandan Haygunde | Pune |
Updated: May 15, 2018 4:29:12 am
Police were deployed for the May 12 wedding. (Express Photo)

It was a wedding with a difference, as Vivek Tamaichikar married Aishwarya Bhat in Pimpri on May 12 by taking an open stand against the alleged practice of “virginity test”, in which a newly married woman in the Kanjarbhat community is made to give proof of her virginity on the wedding night.

Both Vivek and Aishwarya belong to the Kanjarbhat community, a nomadic tribe having its presence in different states. A postgraduate from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, Vivek is the founder of WhatsApp group “Stop the V-ritual”, which includes youths from the community and a few elders who have been raising voice against their caste panchayat for allegedly conducting the practice. Aishwarya is the grand daughter of former PCMC Mayor Kavichand Bhat and has been supporting Vivek’s movement.

In their marriage invitation card, Vivek and Aishwarya had appealed to guests to participate in their marriage for strengthening their fight against “virginity test” and other unfair practices in Kanjarbhat community.

The wedding took place in the presence of police personnel, actor Nagraj Manjule, Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe, Mukta Dabholkar of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti and others. Also, following a letter by state women’s commission chief Vijaya Rahatkar to the Pune city police, police were deployed at the marriage ceremony to prevent any untoward incident.

“Only the traditional Kanjarbhat rituals that cause no harm were followed during our marriage. No unfair practices like ‘virginity tests’ or ‘Khushi’ were followed. Elders and caste panchayat members sit together before marriage and decide the amount of money to be taken from family of bride and groom as ‘Khushi’ for approval of marriage. Women do not take part in these meetings. But, in my marriage, my mother and aunty and also anti-superstition activist Nandini Jadhav sat in the meeting. No money was paid as ‘Khushi’. Some elders in the

community may not have liked it. But my parents and also Aishwarya’s supported us fully. The marriage ceremony ended happily and peacefully. About 25 members of our WhatsApp group, including senior government officer and our guiding force Krushna Indrekar, were present,” Vivek said.

When contacted, anti-superstition activist Nandini Jadhav said, “I was present in the meeting between elders at this marriage. There was hesitation among some community members. They tried to convince me that nothing wrong takes place in the community. However, nobody opposed me or talked about virginity test. It was a revolutionary marriage ceremony. We appreciate the work done by WhatsApp group members despite facing several odds.”

For the last few months, the members of this WhatsApp group have been trying to create awareness against “virginity tests”. The Indian Express had first reported about the group after its member Siddhant Indrekar filed a complaint against the Kanjarbhat caste panchayat at the Vishrantwadi police station on November 25, 2017.

On January 21, few members of the group were beaten up by a group of about 40 during a marriage at Bhat Nagar in Pimpri.

On February 28, replying to a query by Shiv Sena’s Neelam Gorhe, Minister of State for Home Affairs Ranjit Patil had assured protection would be provided to those who come forward with complaints against “virginity tests”.

Kanjarbhat activist Ganesh Machare said, “There was no plan by any community member to disrupt the marriage of Vivek and Aishwarya. In fact, we called police officials requesting them to deploy policemen at their wedding. Not many from the Kanjarbhat community were present at their wedding as we did not get any invite. We are a progressive community that believes in giving equal rights and education to our women.”

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