Two villages in Maharashtra ban rituals of widowhood

Resolution passed by the two villages is set to become State policy

May 12, 2022 03:45 pm | Updated 09:45 pm IST - Mumbai

The resolution said rituals barring widows from social gatherings deprived them of their human rights.

The resolution said rituals barring widows from social gatherings deprived them of their human rights. | Photo Credit: AP

A resolution passed by two villages in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district banning age-old regressive rituals that ostracise widows is set to become part of the State’s policy for women.

Herwad village in Shirol tehsil and historic Mangaon in Hatkanangle tehsil in Kolhapur district passed the resolution at gram sabhas on the occasion of Maharashtra Day (May 1). Mangaon already holds a special place in the history of social reform movement. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj held the first joint conference against untouchability in this village on March 21, 1920.

The resolution said that, henceforth, no woman in the village would undergo the painful rituals of widowhood.

“When the husband dies, a woman is subjected to rituals such as wiping her sindoor, removing her mangalsutra, breaking her bangles and removing toe ring. Similarly, she is barred from any religious or social gathering and her social status as a married woman is snatched. Such rituals deprive her of her rights and violate human rights. Our village bans any such rituals in order to ensure that widows too should be able to live like any other woman,” said the resolution.

Muktabai Sanjay Pujari, who proposed the resolution in Herwad gram panchayat, told The Hindu that being a woman she used to interact with widows and knew how much it hurt them when they were barred from family functions or religious programs. “We felt the intensity of it after the Covid wave. We wanted to do something about it,” she said.

Pramod Zinjade from Pothre village Solapur district’s Karmala tehsil runs an organisation called Mahatma Phule Samaj Seva Mandal and had initiated the work to stop the ostracising of women prior to the pandemic.

“When one of my colleagues died and his wife became invisible in the social sphere, I started thinking that this needed to be changed,” he told The Hindu. As he started propagating the message, many men told him that their wife too would suffer the same when they died.

“I bought a ₹100 stamp paper and drew up a legal agreement saying in case of my death, my wife shall not be subjected to any such rituals,” he said. As he publicised his work, he decided that the sarpanch of villages should be made aware about it as the actual change began from the bottom.

Surgonda Patil, sarpanch of Herwad village, had got acquainted with him during the flood relief work in Kolhapur district in 2019. “I was extremely impressed by his thoughts and presented the idea to our gram panchayat members. They all supported and we decided to pass the resolution,” he said.

Similarly, Raju Magdum of Mangaon too had come across Mr. Zinjade’s work. Sandhyatai Jadhav, a gram panchayat member from the village, had already begun the revolutionary work from her house.

“I lost my brother-in-law six months ago due to heart attack. We, in our family, decided that his wife would not be subjected to any prevalent rituals. We will not treat her as a widow, but as any other normal human being,” said Ms. Jadhav.

“We had an example in front of us. Using that and Mr. Zinjade’s guidance, we too passed the resolution on May 1,” said Mr. Magdum.

The examples set by Herwad and Mangaon have now caught the attention of the Maharashtra government.

State Women and Child Welfare Minister Yashomati Thakur, who met the delegation of Herwad gram panchayat on Thursday, said that this would be the part of the State’s policy for women.

Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule also said that the initiative would turn into official State policy.

Mr. Zinjade said his team of volunteers was working on the issue and and he had been getting requests for guidance from States such as Gujarat and Karnataka too.

“We did this because we understand how a woman feels when she is ignored just because her husband is dead. We decided that any good work should begin from our house, only then others will follow. Therefore, we decided to take this step,” said Ms. Jadhav.

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