A group of 40 people from the Kanjarbhat community thrashed three persons from the same community on Sunday night for protesting against forced virginity tests for brides on wedding night. The incident occurred during a marriage at Bhat Nagar in Pune’s Pimpri-Chinchwad area.
The three attacked – Prashant Indrekar, Saurabh Machhle and Prashant Tamchikar – are part of a WhatsApp group called ‘Stop the V ritual’ that has been opposing the regressive practice carried out by the Kanjarbhat community’s ‘caste panchayat.‘
The group – which now has about 40 odd members from Pune and Mumbai – was reportedly started by Vivek Tamaichekar, a masters’ student at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences who belongs to the same community.
A resident of the locality, Prashant Ankush Indrekar, filed a complaint with the Pimpri Police. He said he and his family were invited to the wedding, where he saw the panchayat holding a meeting on conducting the test on the bride after the ceremony concluded.
"There was a discussion supporting the virginity test of the bride, claiming it was a part of their tradition,” he told The Indian Express. "We did not oppose anyone at the spot, but they knew that my friends and I are part of the WhatsApp group ‘Stop the V-ritual’. So they got angry and questioned us, and then 30 to 40 youths, including Sunny Malke, the brother of the girl who got married on Sunday, attacked [us].”
Members of the WhatsAppp group have filed a complaint against the "virginity test” practice. Its founder, Vivek Tamaichekar, told ANI this was against Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution. "People here believe that this ritual should be done because it is our tradition and otherwise, our girls would be spoilt,” he said "We are protesting against that by spreading awareness.”
An FIR under Sections 143, 147, 149 (pertaining to rioting and unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation), 427 of the Indian Penal Code IPC was lodged against 40 community members at the Pimpri police station yesterday. So far, two arrests have been made and identities of five others ascertained.
What is the virginity test?
Priyanka Tamaichekar, a Pune resident who is also a part of the group, told Indian Express, "Even today, a virginity test of the bride is conducted in the Kanjarbhat community. The newly married couple is taken to a hotel room. The groom is given a white bedsheet and is asked to use it while having sex. The caste panchayat members actually sit outside the room. If the groom comes out with a bedsheet with blood stains on it, the bride passes the test. But if the bedsheet has no blood stains, the panchayat members accuse the bride of having a physical relationship with a man in the past."
God forbid, if the groom emerges out of the room with a clean bedsheet, the bride's never-ending ordeals begin--from being harassed and even beaten up by the in-laws and husband, to being abandoned by the family altogether, cases have been reported for the worst possible "punishments" one can imagine.
In June 2017, the case of a 20-year-old woman from Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, came to light. This woman-in-question had been deserted by her husband and was forced to remain confined to her room by her father for failing the virginity test. The in-laws even took away all her jewellery.