A family in Maharashtra’s Ambarnath town has filed a case against their community’s caste panchayat members for ordering a social boycott of their family. Vivek Tamaichikar, one of the complainants, claimed that his family was being targetted because he was leading a movement against the practice of virginity tests imposed on brides in the Kanjarbhat community.
The Ambarnath police filed a case against four members of the caste panchayat on May 15, under Sections 3 and 5 of the Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016. The law prohibits caste panchayats and practices of social ostracism among all castes and communities in the state.
According to the complaint, Tamaichikar and other members of their family had been facing social boycott for more than year, but the boycott became more official after the death of Tamaichikar’s grandmother on May 14. At a wedding function that took place in the community on the same day, Sangam Garunge – the “sarpanch” of Ambarnath’s Kanjarbhat caste panchayat – issued a diktat prohibiting all community members from attending the woman’s funeral. In a video that has been widely shared on Kanjarbhat social media groups, Garunge can be seen threatening community members with social boycott if they choose to attend the funeral.
“He also announced that the DJ music at the wedding would not stop even though there was a death in the community, because my family had defamed our community in the media,” said Tamaichikar, who started a WhatsApp group called Stop the V-ritual to oppose virginity tests among Kanjarbhats in December 2017.
After his grandmother’s funeral, which was attended by just a handful of immediate family members, the Tamaichikars filed first information reports against Sangam Garunge, Bhushan Garunge, Karan Garunge and Avinash Gagde. All the accused are currently absconding.
This is not the first time that the Tamaichikars have had to file a case under Maharashtra’s social boycott law. In October 2018, Vivek Tamaichikar’s wife, Aishwarya Tamaichikar, had filed a case against eight people after they attempted to evict her from a Navratri event in Pimpri Chinchwad near Pune. The accused in the case are currently out on bail, and the chargesheet is yet to be filed.
Both Vivek and Aishwarya Tamaichikar had refused to undergo the ritual virginity test mandated by their caste group when they got married in May 2018. Since then, their families have been excluded from wedding invitations and faced various other forms of social boycott.
In February 2018, Maharashtra’s Minister of State for Home, Ranjeet Patil, had announced that the state would make virginity tests a punishable offence and would be considered a form of sexual assault. However, the state is yet to introduce a separate law against the practice.
The Kanjarbhats are a denotified tribe that migrated from Rajasthan to other parts of India around three centuries ago. In Maharashtra, the caste group has around two lakh members and they speak the Kanjarbhati language, which is closer to Marwari than Marathi. Traditionally, the Kanjarbhats were engaged in the brewing and sale of country liquor. Today, a large number of them have left the illegal liquor business and many are employed in public and private sectors.