Pune NGO saves boy from being given away in superstitious ritual
PUNE: The Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, a non-governmental organisation, previously run by Dr Narendra Dabholkar, and the Pune rural police stopped a ceremony of ‘genmal’ in which children are given away to a group of wandering folk artists in Baramati, Pune district on Sunday. The ‘giving away’ ceremony is performed after marrying the child to a woman symbolic of a goddess.
The 11-year-old boy who was going to be subjected to the ceremony was born after the parents had made a virtual promise (called “navas” in Marathi) to the gods to give up their child if and after it was born, said officials.
“The ceremony is similar to the Devdasi concept where little girls are given up. Because we knew about the Devdasi concept, we were alerted when we received an invitation to a child’s wedding on WhatsApp. We informed the local police and Abhinav Deshmukh, superintendent of Pune rural police, directed the local police to provide us help,” said Nandidi Jadhav, head of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti Pune unit who spearheaded the operation.
The child’s father invited 400 people and had taken a loan to organise a feast. He had planned to give his child to a wandering folk artists’ group from Gunawadi village in the fear of inviting the scorn of the goddess, according to the NGO.
“We spoke to the person (guru) who had suggested this ritual in front of the parents. But when he realised that other people were involved, he did a U-turn and said that he did not advise anything of this sort. We contacted the Child Welfare Committee too but realised that the parents are capable and had simply been misled. So, we did not register a case and let the matter settle down,” said police inspector Sunil Mahadik of Baramati taluka police station.
The man switched off his phone when he realised that the police were involved. The parents who were taken aback when he refused to own up to his actions have assured the NGO and the police that the child will be admitted to a school for primary education, said officials.