Members of the Kanjarbhat community, the three protesters are part of a social media campaign against the regressive practice carried out by their community.
New Delhi: A group of 40 people from the Kanjarbhat community thrashed three persons from the same community on Sunday night for protesting against forced virginity tests for brides on their wedding night. The incident occurred during a marriage at Bhat Nagar in Pune’s Pimpri-Chinchwad area.
According to The Hindu, the three attacked – Prashant Indrekar, Saurabh Machhle and Prashant Tamchikar – are part of a WhatsApp group called ‘Stop the V ritual’ that has been opposing the regressive practice carried out by the Kanjarbhat community’s ‘caste panchayat.‘
The group – which now has about 40 odd members from Pune and Mumbai – was reportedly started by Vivek Tamaichekar, a masters’ student at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences who belongs to the same community. The protest has been strongly supported by the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), which was founded by the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.
According to a report in The Quint, as per the practice, a newly-wed couple is handed a white sheet on their wedding night to use during intercourse. The next day, the caste panchayat along with others from the community ask the groom: “Was the bride ‘fine’?”
To indicate that the bride was a virgin, he is required to say thrice: “maal khara (good product).” If not, then the bride is questioned about who she lost her virginity to and then the both are asked to pay a ‘penalty’ – mostly monetary, varying from woman to woman.
“We [had] taken up the issue to the public through social media. Some community members are against us because of it,” Indrekar, who lodged a complaint with the Pimpri police, told the Times of India. He further claimed that him and the two others were beaten up with chairs, kicked and punched.
An FIR under Sections 143, 147, 149 (pertaining to rioting and unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation), 427 of the Indian Penal Code IPC was lodged against 40 community members at the Pimpri police station yesterday. So far, two arrests have been made and identities of five others ascertained.
The sister of one of those named in the FIR – Sunny Malake, 25 – was to get married in Pimpri late on Sunday, for which the victims had been invited. After the ceremony, a caste panchayat assembled where “the ‘elders’ decreed that the bride had to take a virginity test,” a senior official at the Pimpri police station told The Hindu. “A number of panchayat members also vented their ire against Indrekar and his friends, who were present there, for their campaign on social media and speaking out against such practices.”
When the victims were about to leave, the mob began beating them.
Indrekar told the Pune Mirror: “When we started moving out of the hall, a group of 40 people from our community started beating Machale and Tamaichikar. When I went to intervene, they attacked me, too, and all three of us were beaten black and blue.”
“We had not gone there to oppose anything, but people were still angry with us for taking a stand against age-old regressive practices of the caste panchayat, and feel we have defamed the community by speaking up about this on social media. They assaulted us and threatened us for creating awareness in our community.”
On November 25, Indrekar, who is a resident of Kanjarbhat Nagar in Yerwada, had lodged a complaint against the caste panchayat at the Vishrantwadi police station.
Nandini Jadhav of MANS told The Hindu: “Police are tardy in taking action in such cases despite ample proof against the caste panchayats, including demanding money for various rituals. But they often do not register such cases under the Social Boycott Act. How long must progressive members within such communities pay with their life and security before cases are lodged under the new law.”