Almost a year after members of the Kanjarbhat community began to protest against an archaic virginity test women have to undergo after marriage, some members of the community allegedly prevented one of the protestors from participating in a Navratri event in Pimpri Chinchwad near Pune.
Aishwarya Tamaichikar, 23, filed a case at Pimpri Chinchwad police station on the night of October 15 under Maharashtra’s Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, against eight people, claiming that a garba event she attended was shut down soon after she arrived.
Four months ago, Tamaichikar had refused to undergo the virginity test, which involves inspecting the white sheets of a marital bed for bloodstains the morning after the wedding in order to “prove” the chastity of a bride. The community’s caste panchayats subject women who “fail” the test to various humiliations.
Since then, she said to Scroll.in, her family has been boycotted by the community. They have not received invitations to weddings, nor has money been collected from them for Ganpati pandals as is normally the case. “I decided to attend this Navratri event because it was nobody’s personal function,” Tamaichikar said. “But they directly boycotted me here.”
According to Tamaichikar, she has attended garba at the venue in Bhat Nagar in Pimpri Chinchwad near her mother’s home her entire life. This was her first visit home after her marriage and also the first time she faced an open boycott, she said. She reached the venue at around 8 pm and joined in the garba at around 8.15 pm.
After she had danced for around 10 minutes, she claimed the music was suddenly stopped. Her mother came up to her telling her to leave and not make a scene because people there had said they wouldn’t participate in the event while she was there. Tamaichikar says she stood her ground, facing the crowd and refusing to move out of the tent. After a stand-off that lasted around 10 minutes, someone announced over the loudspeaker that it was now a “DJ event”, there would be a general dance, not garba, and that women should clear the floor.
Soon after, Tamaichikar says she left the tent, intending to return if they switched on garba songs again. When they did not, she left for the police station to file a complaint. Tamaichikar said she went to the police station at Pimpri at around 9 pm. Soon after she left, Tamaichikar claimed, her friends who remained at the event told her that garba music had begun again.
According to Senior Police Inspector of Pimpri police station Kalyan Pawar, it was all a misunderstanding. “The girl came to file a complaint only at 11.30 pm,” Pawar said. “People put off the music at the venue at 11.30 pm and she misunderstood that it was because of her. She has no other evidence of any boycott from the panchayat.”
However, the First Information Report states that the time of the incident was 8.15 pm on October 15. It is impossible to verify the time the FIR was filed because it was typed, printed and dated on the morning of October 16. Pawar attributed this to technological delays.
Manoj Machare, a member of the Kanjarbhat community, also claimed that there was no such incident. However, he said the speakers at the venue were switched off at 10 pm, though some youth continued to dance there afterwards.
“There is no social reason behind this,” Machare said. “She is also our daughter.”