The Dalits of Thabola village in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district are facing social and economic boycott for a month now after two grooms from the community decided to defy the diktats of the upper caste villagers. Shahnawaz Akhtar reports.
Rajasthan boasts of lavish weddings with elaborate rituals, of which the bridegroom mounting a horse and riding around a certain area days before the wedding for the Bindoli ritual is a common norm.
But how would you react if someone barred you from taking out Bindoli from their area if you belong to a Dalit community?
Well, one would report the matter to the police to ensure the safe passage of the procession. That was exactly what two cousins belonging to the Dalit Balai community did when they were asked not to mount the horse at Thabola village in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district last month.
What the two grooms never anticipated was that this gesture of theirs would amount to socio-economic boycott of their entire community that is continuing for almost a month now.
“A day before we were to take out Bindoli in the area on May 6, Gopi, Bansi and others belonging to upper caste warned us not to take out the procession or else they will kill us. So my cousin Kailash informed the police and in their presence the Bindoli ritual was performed,” Narayan Balai told Rediff.com.
Both Kailash, 24, and Narayan, 22, are second year graduation students.
There are 20 Dalit families residing along with Jats and Brahmins in Thabola village which has a total population of 2,500.
However, problems of the two cousins had just begun. From the cooks to the event organisers -- all backed out from the wedding as the two cousins defied the diktats of the upper caste, leaving the family in the lurch. Even the vehicle owner who was supposed to ferry the ‘baratis’ refused to give his vans. In fact the whole situation snowballed into a crisis for the entire community.
Things didn’t stop there. Later auto-drivers refused to take their children to school, even the dairy owners refused giving milk and general store owners shut their doors to those from the community.
While police at first helped the duo in taking out the Bindoli procession, they did not support them later. The FIR regarding the warning before the Bindoli has also not been registered yet.
Finally the Dalits of Thabola village decided to complain to the Bhilwara district collector and urged him to interfere in the matter.
“We have been facing such a situation since the last three decades where they (upper caste villagers) had even barred us from drawing water from public hand pumps installed in the village and did not even allow us from participating in any religious process. Once stones were pelted on a religious procession in 2012,” the letter written to the collector mentioned.
After the dispute, the upper caste residents of the village had on judicial papers agreed that they would not disturb the Dalits.
However, no relief came to the community. And when Rediff.com contacted Bhilwara Collector Dr Ravikumar, he said Sub Divisional Magistrate Ram Charan Berwa is looking into the matter.
Berwa was not available for comment.
Amid all these, the Mandal police station officials who refused to file an FIR when the brothers had initially complained finally registered the case on June 5 following court orders.
“Since the upper caste people have decided to boycott us, police have also turned deaf ears on our plight. So we have to move the court,” said Narayan.
But Circle Inspector Mahendra Meghwansi of Mandal police station claimed, “After lodging complaint, the brothers did not turn up for their statements else we could have registered the case”.
Meghwansi also alleged “the brothers are only doing such things for propaganda and there is nothing like as social and economical boycott against Dalit in the village.”
When asked why Dalits would do propaganda, what would they gain out of it, the officer had no answer.
“I do not know why they are doing so.”
Image: Narayan Balai mounting on a horse during the Bindoli procession in Thabola village