Less than a week after Gond and Korku adivasi women in Betul were sent away from a State-funded mass marriage on being found pregnant, a similar incident has occurred in Dindori, 470 km east of Bhopal.
At least 50 women, due to get married under the Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana in Dindori’s Bajag block on Thursday, were subjected to pregnancy tests at the Bajag Community Health Centre by Anganwadi workers under the supervision of medical officer Rupum N. Mitra.
The tests were carried out when the women were called to the centre on Wednesday night for a medical check up to establish their age, as is required.
Dr. Mitra told journalists that the scheme was only for single women and that he was not in violation of any rule by testing their urine samples. Five women were found pregnant and taken off the marriage roster.
Dr. Mitra had been asked by the Bajag Janpad Panchayat to assess the women’s eligibility to participate in the programme. The Panchyat’s CEO B.P. Shukla said that rules stipulated a medical test and he had no idea whether the women were checked for pregnancy.
The administration has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Of the 76 applications, 29 were rejected on various grounds. Those participating got household items like cupboards, bicycles and gas stoves worth Rs. 13,500.
Social Justice Minister Gopal Bhargava called the existence of pregnant brides “scandalous and reprehensible.” He added that his department plans to make girls’ families sign an affidavit stating that their daughter was a virgin.
Gulzar Singh Markam, vice president of the Gondwana Gantantra Party — which focuses on adivasi rights — explained that as per Gond rituals, a prospective son-in-law must live and work for two years in the girl’s house. There is no objection to cohabitation during this period. Only if the girl and her family are impressed, the marriage takes place.
“The government either wants to destroy our traditions or simply humiliate us. Officials should study our social system before being sent to adivasi districts. We will make this forced Sanskritisation and insult of our women an electoral issue in the Assembly polls this year,” he told The Hindu .
“The government either wants to destroy our traditions or simply humiliate us. Officials should study our social system before being sent to adivasi districts.”