Manju Kanjar, a tribal sex worker from Bundi’s Ramnagar village, got a new lease of life by tying nuptial knot with her beloved, Devi Shankar at mass wedding ceremony of the Kanjar community on Saturday.
Manju, 22, made a new start in along with 21 fellow sex workers, including 19 from her village and two from Swai Madhopur’s Chauth ka Barwada, broke free from the Kanjar community-- a denotified tribes people who were earlier listed as criminals-- got married at the mass wedding ceremony.
“I did not want to continue leading the life of a sex worker as I was in love with Devi Shankar, who helped me take the decision of leaving the profession,” said Manju, who has five siblings, including two brothers and three sisters and an aged mother in Ramnagar, about 12 km from the district headquarters.
Shankar, whose family is connected the flesh trade, said “I thought of our only love and nothing else when I decided to marry Manju”.
Manju’s colleague and resident of the same village, Tejkaran Mehra (20) too tied the knot with her beloved, an upper caste Brahmin, Rajendra Carpenter (22), breaking the caste barriers.
Rajendra, who works as a carpenter in the village, said his family was against the marriage but the couple still went ahead and tied the knot.
“We cared about the families as our love is above any kind of resistance,” he said.
Most of the couples at the mass wedding were either known to each other previously or were in a relationship.
The mass wedding ceremony was organized as a joint initiative of the Bundi district administration and clutch of social organizations.
Not just bureaucrats, but government departments and social organisations like the Rotary club, Bundi, Innerwheel Club, Narayan Seva Sansthan and others contributed to raisemore than ₹7 lakh for the mass wedding ceremony.
Kaneez Fatima, an official with the Bundi anti-human trafficking unit who has rescued scores of young girls trafficked into the sex trade, had taken the initiative to hold the mass marriage.
“During counselling the rescued girls expressed their desire of getting married, following which I took up the issue to the district administration,” she said.
Bundi district collector Naresh Thakral said the mass wedding was to bring the girls of the Kanjar community who are pushed into prostitution back to the mainstream.
Social organizations and district administration have gifted the couple with a bed, metal trunk, sewing machine, clothes, utensils, fan and other household appliances needed to run a family, he said.
Apart from the gifts, the couples were given financial assistance, said Savita Krishnaiyya, assistant director of social justice department.
As most community members were also involved in illicit liquor trade, a financial assistance ranging between ₹25,000 and ₹15000 was to the couples for starting a new trade, she said.
“For couple of inter-caste marriage, an additional ₹5 lakh will be awarded. The money will be deposited in a joint fixed deposit bank account of the couples with a lock-in period of eight years,” she said.