Breaking all barriers of years-old bias, a Dalit man, Sanjay Jatav from Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj district made his five-month-long desire of riding a horse to his wedding come true on July 15. This Hindu tradition is the norm for many individuals, but for the Dalits of Nizampur in Kasganj, it was nothing but a distant dream until now.
The wedding procession
27-year-old Sanjay’s baraat or wedding procession was not an ordinary one. More than 150 police personnel and a platoon of the state provincial armed constabulary, guarded Sanjay and his procession all the way from his house in Basai village in Hathras district to the bride, Sheetal Kumari’s residence in Nizampur village in Kasganj district, reported News 18. Nizampur has not seen such a procession by a Dalit in about 80 years.
According to media reports, Circle officer (Kasganj city) Gavendra Pal Gautam said, “We have everything under control since last night, there is no scope of any disturbance. Everything will go on peacefully.” As police kept a strict vigil to avoid conflict, the marriage procession danced to Bollywood numbers as a mark of celebration during the hour-long journey.
— Aishwarya S Iyer (@iyersaishwarya) July 16, 2018
Sanjay Jatav’s struggle to make his dream come true
Six months ago, when Sanjay planned to marry 18-year-old Sheetal Kumari, also a Dalit, he also dreamt of riding on a horse-drawn carriage to the wedding — a Hindu tradition commonly practised in India.
Reportedly, Dalits in the village were not allowed to take a Baraat because the people belonging to the upper caste Thakur community opposed the same. However, after several rounds of meeting with the district administration, appeals to the district magistrate, superintendent of police and the Allahabad High Court and finally chief minister’s office, Sanjay was finally granted his wish.
Even though the district administration had refused Sanjay to take his baraat at first, the Kasganj administration played the role of a mediator between two parties and convinced the Thakurs to let the procession pass by their houses, reported NDTV. Reportedly, the Thakurs make up 70% of Nizampur’s population whereas, Dalits only make up for 10% of the people and stay on the outskirts of the village. The route that the procession also mapped out in April 2018.
Sanjay, who is a member of the gram panchayat, told media persons, “I am surprised that in the 21st century, we had to struggle for six months to climb into a horse-driven carriage. This is my right, and I have achieved it. The authorities seem to be managing everything well.”
Even though Sanjay was allowed to take a wedding procession through an area dominated by the Thakurs, the latter did not attend the wedding even after receiving an invitation, reported The Indian Express.
The Logical Indian Take
It took Sanjay Jatav six months and over 150 police personnel to make his dream of a wedding procession come true. His continued efforts not only broke ‘traditions’ in the village of Nizampur but also opened possibilities for other Dalit men like himself.
The systematically entrenched social discrimination based on caste is extremely oppressive. Even in face of real danger, with possible harassment from dominant caste members in local lower level administrative setup, it is indeed courageous to take a stand on centuries-old caste divide and opting to break away from regressive customs.