A Dalit couple in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj district has been fighting with authorities for the past two months to allow them to conduct a wedding procession through streets where mainly upper-caste Thakurs live, The Indian Express reported.
The bride, groom, and their families have been facing stiff opposition, not just from the Thakur community but also from local authorities who say they will not “change tradition”.
The groom, Sanjay Kumar, has written to the police, the chief minister and the SC/ST Commission. He has even spoken to local newspapers and released videos on social media asking for help to allow his family to take the baraat, or wedding procession, through his bride’s village. On March 15, he moved the Allahabad High Court. The wedding is now 20 days away, but local authorities refuse to budge.
Kanti Devi, the head of the Thakur-dominated Nizampur village where the bride Sheetal stays, said the Thakurs would not allow this “new tradition”, and added that “there will be a threat to law and order.”
“Let the wedding happen, we don’t have an allergy” she said. “The problem is someone forcibly coming into our territory and breaking boundaries. When a baraat has never come down our path then why are they trying to provoke a row?”
Even the Kasganj District Magistrate, RP Singh, who earlier visited the village with Superintendent of Police Piyush Srivastava, said the Jatavs – the community to which the bride and groom belong – “simply want to pick a fight where there isn’t one”. He said, “We cannot change parampara (tradition),” and asked the groom to take the usual route all Dalit wedding processions take. His reason: the route the baraat wanted to take – flanked by Thakur homes – had narrow roads, one of which was lined with garbage. Singh also said no grand Jatav wedding has taken place in the village over the past 20 years.
Kumar, a block development council member, said he could not understand why there were two sets of rules for the two communities. “When the Constitution says we are all equal, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath says we are all Hindus, and he heads a Hinduvadi party, why am I facing such a situation?” he told The Indian Express. “Am I not a Hindu then?” Kumar claimed that the upper caste members have also objected to him riding a horse for the baraat.
The family said they approached authorities for permission for the baraat in October, soon after the wedding was fixed, as they expected the opposition. Sheetal’s family home is in the outskirts of the village – as are the homes of four other Jatav families. Usually, Jatav grooms stop their baraats at a ground outside the Nizamabad village and then walk to the bride’s house without crossing any Thakur areas.
The row has also taken a political turn, with leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Bahujan Samaj Party – the Jatavs are a major vote-bank – hitting out at each other.
BJP MLA Devender Singh, a Thakur, said Kumar was “doing netagiri” and should have gone to him for advice. “I would have got him married with government aid, at a mass wedding,” he said, adding, “If you cross someone’s path, there will be a fight.”
BSP leader Ajay Kumar said Dalit families have wanted to celebrate their weddings in a grand manner, but would “suppress their desires”. He claimed the administration was not helping the family as it was a “a government of Thakurs”. “The chief minister is a Thakur,” Ajay Kumar said. “So there is pressure from the administration itself,” he alleged.
The district authorities, however, maintain that they have asked the Thakurs to cooperate with the family, while the police said they have asked 11 Jatavs and 24 Thakurs to sign bonds promising they would not create a law and order issue during the wedding on April 20.