Published On: Fri, Jun 3rd, 2016

After caste panchayat ordered virginity test…Girl returns to hubby, no police plaint filed

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MUMBAI: A day after this paper reported how a caste panchayat in Ahmednagar had annulled the marriage of a 20-yearold police force aspirant because she failed their ‘virginity test’ — by not bleeding on her wedding night — she has decided to return to her husband and not file a police complaint against him. Yogita Abhiyekar-Karale is worried that her bold step of standing up to the outlandish ritual may impede her siblings’ marriage prospects and result in ostracisation for her family.

She, however, did not speak directly of any potential reprisal from the caste panchayat of Kanjarbhats — a community to which both she and her husband belong to.

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Yogita said she had made peace with her husband, Arjun — who about 10 days ago had abandoned her at the behest of the panchayat — after he sought her forgiveness. “My husband and I had a dialogue and we have settled the issue and I am okay with it. Had he not asked for my forgiveness, I would have filed an FIR,” she said.

When Mirror spoke with Arjun, he said the result of his new bride’s ‘virginity test’ upset him as she hadn’t bled. “We follow all our traditions. The caste panchayat is very important so I followed their decision. But today, I asked her to forgive me and she did. So we will live as husband and wife forever,” said Arjun, whose marriage to Yogita is his second.

The resolution came after the couple had a long-winded meeting in the afternoon yesterday, at Yogita’s house in Sangamner taluka, Ahmednagar district.

After our Wednesday’s story about how the caste panchayat had put the girl through a ‘virginity test’, Deputy Superintendent Ajay Devare along with activists visited Yogita’s residence to assess the situation. But the chief panch of the caste panchayat, Nodaklal, was absent from all the drama unfolding in the village throughout the day.

Activists in Ahmednagar say the young woman’s family is under duress from the conservative village. Advocate Ranjna Gavande, an activist with the Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti, an organisation working to root out superstitious practices, said, “We tried to talk to the girl and her parents at length. We have been saying they are under tremendous social pressure from Kanjarabhat caste panchayat,” Gavande said.

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Yogita has two sisters and a brother who are yet to be married off. Her father is a painter, and though the family is doing well, they fear for their social reputation, he said. Dy SP Devare said Yogita doesn’t want to be embroiled in any legal tangle, and that the administration has assured her of protection from any retribution. “We heard what she wanted to tell us. She wants to stay with her husband and not want to drag the issue by filing a police complaint.

We respect her decision and assure her safety. Since the activists have raised concerns, we called both of them and their parents to the police station,” Devare said.

At the police station, a few hours into their meeting, the couple was happily talking to all the news channels and smiling for cameras, right out of the police station, saying how they had a ‘misunderstanding’ because of the virginity test that had now been sorted out.

Dy SP Devare added that Arjun has given a written assurance to Yogita that there is no threat to her safety and that she will live happily in his home Local police administration said they could not take up the case suo moto because the grievances have dissolved now that the couple has resolved the matter between them.

When contacted for comment, Ahmednagar Superintendent of Police Saurabh Tripathi sent a written response to Mirror. Translated from Marathi, it reads, “Today we received the information that a virginity test was conducted on a girl after marriage and because she failed the test, the marriage was dismissed. We assure the girl and her relatives that if they want to file a complaint, they can do so without fear of the caste panchayat; we will note down the complaint and provide all kind of legal support to her. But the husband and wife had a meeting and decided to live together.” At the end of the day, no police complaint was registered.
But experts Balkrishna Renke, who headed the National Commission for Nomadic and SemiNomadic Tribes as chairman, told Mirror that raising awareness among the formerly nomadic community can help weed out such practices, more than penal action.
“We condemn such heinous crimes because they infringe on one’s individual freedom and work against the dignity of the person. But the Kanjarbhat community (nomadic tribe) had been following virginity tests as part of the marriage institution. Since most of the community is settled and no more has a nomadic status, their education and awareness have improved. The tradition of ‘virginity tests’ is fading. More than penal action, social reform, awareness and close work with the community will help eradicate this inhuman tradition. Wherever required, we must intervene legally, but only counselling will change things.”

Maharashtra’s Kanjarabhat community, which has around 2.5 lakh members, mainly resides in Sangamner, Ichalkaranji (Sangli) and Pune district. They are known to be a powerful and well-off people, and hold local, district-level and international caste panchayats. Two years ago, the community held a huge international gathering at Andaman and Nicobar Islands which was attended by around 400 members from India.

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology