Less than a month after a Rajasthan village created history when a Dalit man rode a mare for his wedding procession on the initiative of an IPS officer, another IPS officer – a Dalit — had to take police protection to ride a horse for his pre-wedding ceremony in the same State.
This was in the backdrop of an incident in a village in North Gujarat’s Banaskantha, neighbouring Rajasthan, when a Dalit bridegroom’s wedding procession was showered with stones and one person was injured. The incident occurred on February 7, 2022, in Mota village in Palanpur taluka (tehsil) in the district that borders the desert state. An FIR was lodged against 28 people, including the village sarpanch, though nobody has been arrested as yet.
In the case of young Dalit IPS officer Sunil Kumar Dhanwanta on Tuesday, a posse of police force kept a tight vigil when he rode a horse to reach Surajpura village from Bhagatpura Jaisinghpura village in Jaipur district for the pre-wedding ceremony called Bindori. His marriage is on Friday, February 18.
The would-be groom’s ceremony went through the main roads in the village, even as the police security was stepped up in view of recent incidents of Dalit grooms being targeted by upper-caste goons for riding horses.
“We deployed police in the area as a precautionary measure. The officer’s Bindori was carried out peacefully,” said Manish Agarwal, SP, Jaipur (Rural).
The IPS officer Sunil Kumar Dhanwanta said, “The police contingent was deployed keeping in view previous incidents. And I am marrying without accepting any dowry.”
Again in Rajasthan, in November last year, stones were thrown at a wedding procession of a Dalit bridegroom who was riding a horse to his bride’s house in Jaipur. After the incident, 10 people were arrested and three police officials, including the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and the additional superintendent of police (ASP), were shunted out. The attack took place in the presence of cops who were deployed to provide security.
It was only ironical that a police officer had to avail protection for his own wedding ceremony when another IPS officer, Jay Yadav, in the same Rajasthan’s Bundi district ensured full security to an ordinary Dalit man who rode a horse during his wedding procession in Bundi district on January 24.
The neighbouring Banaskantha’s February 7 case was not the first of its kind in the supposedly progressive state of Gujarat where the State Government puts up an all-is-well face. Local newspapers and TV channels are replete with stories about discrimination of Dalits and atrocities on them, with hardly a few being arrested.
The details of Mota village incident are startling. A Dalit groom was restrained from riding a horse and his wedding procession was showered with stones. Twenty-eight people have been booked in it, but the FIR was lodged only after media pressure and intervention of Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, under whose constituency the village falls.
While the incident took place at Mota village under Palanpur taluka of the district on Monday, an FIR for unlawful assembly (IPC section 143), criminal intimidation (506) and under various sections of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act was registered at the Gadh police station a day later.
When the wedding procession passed through the village, some unknown people threw two to three stones, injuring one of the relatives of the groom. An FIR was registered and the case was handed over to the DySP of SC/ST cell, no one has been arrested yet. The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint submitted by Virabhai Sekhalia, who had arranged his younger son Atul’s marriage on February 7 with a girl from a nearby village.
However, when village sarpanch Bharatsinh Rajput, who is among those charged, and some other prominent residents of Mota learnt that Atul Sekhalia will ride a horse during his wedding procession, they called the groom’s father and asked him to drop the idea or be ready to face consequences, the complaint read.
When the Sekhalia family remained firm on the decision, the sarpanch called a meeting of villagers on Sunday. In the meeting, Rajput and 27 others publicly asked the groom’s family and people from the SC community not to sit on a horse during the marriage procession “because that has been the tradition since centuries”, Sekhalia alleged in his complaint.
The accused threatened the family with consequences if their orders were not followed, the complainant said. To avoid any altercation over the issue, the Sekhalia family eventually dropped the idea of the groom riding a horse, but the complainant sought police protection to take out the wedding procession.
When the procession commenced under police protection and reached near a milk shop on Monday morning, some of the accused raised an objection over members of the marriage party wearing ‘safas’ (turbans), according to the complaint, and started throwing stones at the procession.