Oor the Dalits of the remote Nimeda village of Bihanay tehsil of Ajmer district, 12 July 2013 was a historic day. On that day, for the first time, a Dalit groom Ranjeet Berwa rode a horse as part of the Bindori ceremony, with a band in attendance. In Rajasthan, the Tel ceremony (unction with oil) is held three days prior to the marriage. Before the groom or the bride is treated to the beauty treatment of Tel-Ubtan, the sister or Bua (father’s sister), organises the Bindori ceremony. She invites the groom or the bride to her home on lunch, gives them gifts and then sends them back to their homes in a procession. She also accompanies the procession and welcomes the groom / bride at his / her home with an Aarti.
Every family holds this ceremony according to its economic status. In some cases, bands accompany the procession. The bride rides a horse-drawn carriage while the groom mounts a horse.
In Rajasthan, the Dalit grooms were not allowed to ride a horse during either Baraat or Bindori. The ban was imposed by the upper castes. If a Dalit groom dared to ride a horse, the upper castes, armed with weapons, attacked the marriage procession. So much so that the marriage processions were not allowed to pass through the localities inhabited by the upper castes. Such instances were very common. On occasions, instead of reaching the bride’s home, the marriage processions landed up at hospitals or police stations, to register complaints of attacks on them. And this only happened in cases where the groom’s family was economically sound and insisted on its rights. And that, invariably lead to violence.
Interestingly, in Srimali, Brahmin and some other upper-caste communities, the brides ride a horse during ‘Bindori’ and the news of the event, along with photographs, is published in newspapers as an example of social change. On the other hand, incidents of atrocities on Dalits on this issue are invariably suppressed.
It was in this backdrop that the marriage of Ranjeet, son of Ratanlal Berwa of village Lamgara was fixed. Ranjeet and his brother Parmeshwar wanted that during the Baraat and Bindori, the groom should ride a horse. But they were also aware that never in the history of their village had such a thing happened. But Paremehwar did not give up. He travelled to the district headquarters, about 90 km away, met top officers including the district collector and the SP and submitted a written application to them. In his application, he expressed the apprehension that if his brother rode a horse during Bindori, the upper castes may resort to violence. The district collector Vaibhav Galria took cognizance of his application and issued strict instructions. The result was that the SDO Om Prakash ShaSharma, Tehsildar Ramchandra Meena and Bihanay thana in-charge Sugan Singh reached Nimeda, along with a strong posse of policemen on July 12. In their presence, Ranjeet’s Bindori procession was taken out with great enthusiasm. The groom rode a horse and a band played. The administration might have taken a sigh of relief over the peaceful event but the question is that how many Dalits have that much courage. conviction and requisite cash.
Published in the September 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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