Abused Every Day, This Couple Continues Battling Against The Evil Of ‘Virginity Tests’
- IWB Post
- August 10, 2019
People say everything is fair in love and war. And for Krishna Indrekar of the Kanjarbhat Community, it was in equal parts – the love for which he had to fight the war against the backward and cruel practices of the community. For the last 22 years, Krishna and his wife Aruna have been fighting for their right to live with dignity.
Remember our conversation with Vivek Tamaichikar, the founder of the Whatsapp group, ‘Stop The V Ritual’? Battling the demeaning practice of virginity tests on brides in his community, Vivek has garnered the support of many fellow youngsters. He told us about his maternal uncle and aunt who had not only refused to accept the test but also took a stand against every single degrading tradition of their community.
When I asked Krishna how he managed to continue this fight for this long, he laughed and said, “Oh, I have this amazing warrior who accompanied me, fought alongside me and scratched ‘giving up’ out of my dictionary – my Aruna.” And hence the conversation began and to say I was inspired, would be an understatement. Excerpts:
Why don’t we start with how you met your life partner?
Krishna: It was when I was in college, that Aruna’s father and grandmother, who already knew me because ours is of those communities where everyone knows each other, had decided that I would be their future son-in-law. But I wasn’t ready to get married without establishing my career first and being able to earn for the family. It was at a wedding that we met and I don’t know what magic happened (Aruna shyly laughs) but this amazing woman decided to wait for me for the next 8 years, denying marriage proposals of wealthier, more good-looking men.
So when did you get married?
Krishna: It was in 1996, after having completed my studies and with a stable job that I decided to get married. But our community was, and is, rife with many evils. To start with, there is extortion of money to approve marriages, the shameful tradition of virginity test and so much more. I didn’t want the woman I love to be the target of this humiliating practice.
Following this, I decided to go for a court marriage and Aruna completely supported my decision. We had celebrated our 22nd marriage anniversary on 1st January.
Congratulations to the happy couple! Aruna, while your hubby was a fearless rebel, were you afraid of breaking your community’s age-old traditions?
Aruna: A little. Because in our community denying to comply with the rules is frowned upon, a girl doing the same is considered to be an insult to her family and suspected of hiding her ‘sinful acts.’ But trusting Krishna more than anyone, I knew that he wanted to give a positive direction to the community. And I thought that what good will it do if educated people like us just keep cribbing about what is wrong with the world, yet continue to do the same things?
A very revolutionary thinking, Aruna. However, the Kanjarbhat community is rather unforgiving to the ones who break their rules. Tell us more about your struggles?
Aruna: The things we had to face, oh, even a 1000 page book won’t be sufficient to tell it all. To start with, we were boycotted from our community for not following their rulebook. Even when we came back as a married couple, they gave us the option of getting married ‘properly’ by the Panchayat and was forcing to pass the virginity test. Our denial of the same irked them further. We were treated with contempt and even Krishna’s and my families were outed from the community. And… (Aruna is unable to continue further. Krishna picks up her line of thought.)
Krishna: Aruna was pregnant and the members of our community, sidelining their humanity, would come to our house and criticise us daily, abuse us and what not. While Aruna was bravely facing all of this, it led to her mental breakdown and she faced complications in her pregnancy. Our son, Nishnant, was born deaf as a result and for that too, we have been blamed that it was our sins that did this.
That is so terrible. And yet you both bravely stood your ground.
Aruna: We were not ready to give up. Despite having hearing loss, my son grew up as a normal kid and today he is in the last year of his Mechanical Engineering course. We were always striving to give him a normal life.
Krishna, who is the director of accounts with the state charity commissioner, has been living in Mumbai with his son and wife for the last fifteen years and continues to wage war against the baseless practices of his community.
I can’t express how inspiring your strength is. But the virginity test is not the only degrading practice of your community.
Krishna: Sadly, it is true. There is this senseless ritual where a person’s authenticity is checked by ordering them to walk a distance by holding a hot ball of iron in hands, where if it burns your hands then you are a liar and if you are not, you’ll walk out unscathed. One such ‘test’ was going to take place on 17th May 2017 in Pune. Visiting my family there, I came to know of it, immediately took the help of media, NGOs, and the police to stop it from happening. To cut the long story short, I succeeded in stopping it but was beaten up by the community people for interfering.
Apart from this, there is the extortion of money to validate a marriage, another is if one marries outside his ‘gotra’, the woman is stripped naked in the middle of the road and beaten with sticks for the 100 steps she is made to walks, all this in the name of shudhhikaran.
How are you fighting this injustice today?
I’ve even tried talking to the community heads, the Panchayat, but they keep making empty promises of inviting me to discuss the concerned topics.
Yes, and as you’ve already talked to Vivek Tamaichikar, you must be knowing about his initiative in the form of the Whatsapp group, “Stop The V Ritual” via which he aims to put an end to virginity tests in our community. I’ve joined this initiative along with many other spirited youngsters.
And in your fight till now, how supportive were your families?
Krishna: Zero support from them, if we delete the last 2 months. I had started rebelling against these practices when I was in college and from then I had just faced their displeasure over my decisions. Just recently, some members of my family have started to see the rightness of my steps. My sisters, my mother, my sister-in-law have begun to realize my efforts but my eldest brother, as he is a part of the Panchayat, still fails to accept it.
Aruna: Same here, Apeksha. I have been forever labelled by my family as the reason for their boycott from the society.
Krishna: We have this trust between us that has held strong against even the toughest of times. I thank my luck to have met Aruna. This remarkable woman boldly faced the Panchayat and pointed out its shortcomings, and never did her faith in me waver. If Aruna Indrekar had not been there, Krishna Indrekar would never have been able to continue this fight.
First published on Jan 2, 2018.