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Caste animosities threat to lovers

Even as politicians celebrated BR Ambedkar’s 122nd birth anniversary last week, fresh atrocities show that the social evil that he fought against remains entrenched even today. It is tragic that the marriage of a Dalit boy to a girl belonging to another caste in Pabnawa village in Haryana has provoked an illegitimate and uncalled for social reaction on the part of a large number of people locally. Suryakant and Meena had eloped and married in Chandigarh and then approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court for police protection from the girl’s parents who had lodged a complaint of kidnapping against Suryakant. The two were put in a protection home in Kaithal under police protection. However, this first-ever inter-caste marriage that took place in this village on April 10 sparked off caste-based violence, with men of the superior caste attacking the Dalits. A 400-strong mob is said to have attacked 150 Dalits on Saturday, having looted their houses and humiliated their women. The violence has had the repercussion of causing some 200 Dalit families to flee the village. In the several days since the attack took place, fear continues to stalk this social group in Pabnawa village, with the young women from this community having been moved out en masse by their families fearing assault by upper-caste men.
 
As this violence shows, the several legislations have been enacted for the protection of the scheduled castes are not actively enforced or recognised at the grassroots level and regressive attitudes still prevail in the rural areas. As far as marriage is concerned, our Constitution gives individuals the freedom to make decisions about marriage unimpeded by considerations such as those of caste or class. However, in a society that is still fractured along caste lines marriage remains not a union between two independent adult individuals but between two families and two communities. Herein lies the source of tension. Inter-caste marriages that are without parental approval or of the local communities, trigger violence particularly in rural areas where the threshold of tolerance for the transgressions of traditional social norms is low. The social stigmas and prevailing notions of social acceptance and denial as well as those of family honour continue to remain enmeshed in an outdated feudal ethos. It is now for the government to ensure the security of the Dalits as well as to preserve the marriage of the young inter-caste couple, if they go ahead with it.
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