Earlier this week, the Supreme Court had ruled that it was “absolutely illegal” for khap panchayats (self-appointed village courts that have no legal sanction) or any such assembly of people to interfere in the marriage of two consenting adults. The court also noted that any form of torture by persons in the name of honour “cannot be allowed a moment of existence.”
Fighting social boycott from fellow caste members, a woman from the 2000 member-Vaidu community settled in the Jogeshwari area of Mumbai finally tied the knot with a man of her choice from another caste, reported The Indian Express.
Govindi Gudilu, a software engineer by trade, tied the knot with the partner of her choice, Jayesh Wakhade, from another caste on Thursday with the blessings of the very community leaders who had imposed a social boycott on her family five years ago for refusing to marry a cousin. Govindi was betrothed to her cousin, when she was a toddler.
The couple had met at a 2013 protest against the murder of rationalist Narendra Dhabolkar, and both were workers in his anti-superstition organization called the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti.
In the Vaidu Community, a Scheduled Tribe comprising of 27 lakh members spread across the state with 26,000 in Mumbai, inter-caste marriages are not permitted. Their traditional occupation includes selling herbal medicines.
Govindi and her family had refused the original offer of marriage because she wanted to continue with her education, besides the lack of it on the boy’s part. In response to Govindi’s steadfast opposition to this marriage, the Jat Panchayat (caste council) of the Vaidu community imposed a social boycott and fine of Rs 3 lakh on the family. Instead of leaving, the family decided to fight.
Unable to bear this injustice, Govindi’s younger sister, Durga, took upon it herself and initiated a campaign against the council and raise awareness against these negative social practices. With support from the late rationalist Narendra Dabholkar’s Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti, the family first filed a police complaint against the panchayat members for their orders.
Two years after Durga began her campaign, the panchayat was disbanded. Despite suffering “torture” for the two years her family endured, Durga aided former members of the caste council in hiring lawyers to face the criminal trial.
“After that, I think they finally felt that I was always right. They have consented to this wedding out of fear. I am seen as a leader in the community now, but I only have their respect because of the fear. It will take some time for their thinking to change and for them to accept me,” Durga told Indian Express.
Meanwhile, Mukta Dhabolkar, the late rationalist’s daughter, spoke to the publication about how the couple’s firm stand against child marriage could have a profound impact.
“Their families and other members of the community agreed to the wedding. But this did not happen overnight. Had Govindi done this a few years ago, there would be a punishment. Today the Jat Panchayat members are present here, and they should be applauded,” she told Indian Express.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)