Kanjarbhat elders say the youngsters have misrepresented the tribe, insist the virginity tests are decided by families, not caste panchayats.
Mumbai: Miffed with youngsters from their own community rebelling against the traditional virginity test for women, elders from Maharashtra’s Kanjarbhat tribe have decided to file defamation cases against them, saying they are spoiling the Kanjarbhat name.
Community leaders have also written to the Press Council of India, objecting to the recent press coverage about the Kanjarbhat community and the virginity tests based on “just hearsay”, which they say has damaged the community’s reputation.
The Kanjarbhat elders called for a two-day long convention on 5 and 6 February at Ichalkaranji near Kolhapur, inviting members of the tribe from across Maharashtra to ponder over their age-old traditions and rituals, after a group of youngsters started challenging these vocally and highlighting them in the media.
‘We’ve been misrepresented’
Manoj Machare, head of the Kanjarbhat Vikas Samaj, said: “Things are not at all like what these youngsters have described to the media. They are simply lying and there must be some political force behind them.
“Before talking about any incident, one should have proof. Simply relying on the words of a few young persons without proof is not correct. We have written to the Press Council of India objecting to the recent coverage about our community. We are also approaching the Bombay High Court to file a defamation case against those from our community defaming us.”
Machare said while the youngsters claim that caste panchayats impose virginity tests on newly-married women, in reality, virginity tests in the community are a prerogative of the families of the bride and groom, and the community’s caste panchayats have nothing to do with them.
“It is the families’ decision entirely whether to have a virginity test for the newlywed bride, or on how and when to have it. There is neither any pressure from anyone nor any involvement of the caste panchayats. Moreover, as far as I know, no girl who has failed the test has been unable to have a stable married life,” he said.
He added that more than 500 women were present for the community’s conclave at Ichalkaranji, and they strongly said they want to protect their traditions and the respect of women in their households.
Siddhant Indrekar, a 21-year-old student of Pune’s Nowrosjee Wadia College, one of the young faces at the forefront of the protests against the virginity tests, said they did not attend the conclave as the elders would not have let them in, knowing that these were the protestors.
“They had an entry pass system to let people in. Some of our friends were there and sent us videos and information about what was happening. All those who spoke strongly supported continuing with the virginity tests, and rooting out any threat to Kanjarbhat traditions and culture. Not many women spoke,” Indrekar said.
“I understand that the community elders, many of whom have been caste panchayat members, want to take us to court. Some even started collecting money from those gathered to raise funds for a court battle.”