Bhopal: For the wedding of his daughter, a Dalit man in Madhya Pradesh invited policemen armed with rifles, batons and teargas. Without them there could be no band, baaja or baraat – every symbol of defiance in his village, which is dominated by upper caste families.
Like many in his community, Chander Meghwal was also warned by upper caste neighbours against a lavish wedding and ordered to stick to a back lane instead of the main road for the baraat or groom’s procession.
“They told us you can use a dhol but no band, or it will be seen as disrespect,” he told NDTV.
But he was not about to compromise on his daughter’s big day. His complaint went right to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s office, and police protection was assured for the Sunday event.
The groom arrived on a bike to music played by the band. His procession was followed by a large group of policemen who kept an eye out for any backlash in the neighbourhood. For many of the wedding guests – and also the bride - it was a sight they had never experienced before.
“I am happy that my wedding is the first with band-baaja,” said Mamta Meghwal, beaming in her wedding sari and jewellery.
The father of the bride declared that he was not afraid of any retaliation.
For years, the Gujjar community in the region has “banned” Dalit grooms from riding a horse to their wedding, as is customary. Chander Meghwal was told that if he defied these “rules”, his family would not be allowed to draw water from the common well and would be barred from entering the temple.
Chander Meghwal did the opposite of what he was expected to; he went to the police and asked for help.
If, he told reporters, he was threatened again, he would simply complain again.