NO to death rituals

Despite their objections and after a lot of arguments and counter-arguments, Chauhan’s father was cremated without any pandit in attendance. Then arose a dispute over Teeja, Tehrvin and other post-funeral rituals. Chauhan was firm that at no cost would he host a feast for Brahmins or pandits. That was more than the Brahmins of the village could take and his family started receiving indirect threats.

After the death of one of their elderly members, a Dalit family of village Tajuddinpur of Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh said a firm no to death rituals performed by the Brahmins. The decision caused quite a sensation in the social circles of the area.

Tajuddinpur is the ancestral village of Shiv Sahay Chauhan, a leading member of Dr Ambedkar Navyuvak Dal – a Dalit organisation of Punjab. Chauhan had left his ancestral village about 20 years back and settled down at Ludhiana in Punjab. In Ludhiana, he got acquainted with Ambedkarite literature and organisations and was active in Dalit movements. On 12 July, his father Ram Achal Chauhan passed away. Chauhan and his family members decided to perform the funeral of his father sans the rituals and ceremonies ordained by the Brahmins. His decision encountered stiff opposition from the villagers, who objected to the family breaking social norms. Brahmins and other members of the so-called upper castes were especially sore. Despite their objections and after a lot of arguments and counter-arguments, Chauhan’s father was cremated without any pandit in attendance. Then arose a dispute over Teeja, Tehrvin and other post-funeral rituals. Chauhan was firm that at no cost would he host a feast for Brahmins or pandits. That was more than the Brahmins of the village could take and his family started receiving indirect threats.

On being informed of this development, workers of Dr Ambedkar Navyuvak Dal, Rashtravadi Dalit Sena and other Dalit organisations started reaching the village from other areas of Uttar Pradesh as well as from Bihar. The numerical strength of the Dalit workers quietened the upper castes. Though the family was still warned of celestial wrath befalling it, the upper castes refrained from making any direct attacks. Now, the local Brahmin community is challenging the family to hold marriage ceremonies of the young members of the family without its help. But the family of Chauhan is unperturbed. They say, “The teachings of Mahatma Phule and Babasaheb have given us enough strength to survive without the hollow rituals and ceremonies decreed by the Brahmins.”

Published in the September 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine


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