Kanjarbhat community man alleges social boycott for campaigning against traditional sexist practices
A man from the Kanjarbhat community said he faced social boycott after he campaigned against the community’s sexist traditional practices. Akshay Tamaychikar, 24, a student of public policy at University of Mumbai, filed a complaint with the Thane Police after he was allegedly forced to leave a wedding on December 28, 2018 at Ambarnath in Thane. So far, the police has not filed a first information report (FIR).
Tamaychikar said he and his sister-in-law have in the past protested against the practice of ‘virginity tests’ – demanded by the community’s jati or caste panchayat.
The Kanjarbhats are a denotified tribe.
Customarily, families of brides and bridegrooms pay an amount known as ‘khushi’ after the wedding. If the couple were in a relationship prior to getting married, then this amount becomes higher.
“It is nothing but extortion by the panchayat,” said Tamaychikar. “When the panchayat sits, they ask the bride if she has any diseases which can be passed through sexual intercourse, or if she has had sexual intercourse with the same person or not. I wanted police to intervene and take action.”
A member of the panchayat, however, said, “We do not have any such practices in our community.”
Tamaychikar alleged he was beaten, humiliated and forced to leave his cousin’s wedding for his stand against the practice of khushi. He registered a non-cognisable complaint with the police, but no FIR has been filed.
An officer from Ambarnath police station said, “The person concerned submitted a complaint, but it was an internal dispute between family members and because a virginity test wasn’t conducted, it doesn’t qualify to be a case of social boycott.”
However, Tamaychikar says he and his relatives have been harassed because of his campaign. Lawyer Sujoy Kantawala said that if true, Tamaychikar’s allegations could be a cognizable offence.
Under section III of the Maharashtra Protection of People form Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, obstructing a person from the attending social gathering is prohibited.
“One cannot force someone to not attend a wedding. It qualifies as a cognisable offence,” said Kantawala.