Pune RTI activist fights out ‘social boycott’ for not inviting village deity to daughter’s marriage

The family of a Pune-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Bhagwan Nivdekar allegedly faced a social boycott at his native place in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district for not following the tradition of inviting the village deity for his daughter’s marriage.

Though Nivdekar complained about the alleged social boycott at the Lanja police station in Ratnagiri on July 25, it was only after members of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), founded by slain anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, went to the station on August 8 that the police took action, he said. The police called up the villagers who allegedly imposed the social boycott on Nivdekar’s family and warned them.

A native of Beni Khurd village in Lanja taluka of Ratnagiri, Nivdekar resides at Pashan and works at the water supply department of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). He said his daughter got married to a man from Himachal Pradesh at a function held in Pune on May 1. He added he had invited his family members, relatives and friends from his native village and other places for the ceremony.

“On June 15, members of the ‘Gavkar’ family, who heads important religious ceremonies in our village, called a meeting and put forth a resolution for socially boycotting me and my family from all religious rituals in our community because I had not followed the tradition of inviting the local deity for my daughter’s marriage,” said Nivdekar, who has been felicitated by the government bodies like Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) for his work.

“On June 16, my mother Yamunabai, who resides in the village, got to know about the social boycott, got worried and informed me about it. On June 20, I spoke to one of the community members present for the meeting where it was decided to boycott my family from religious rituals over the phone,” he added.

Nivdekar said he realised this was a serious issue and injustice was being done to his family in the ‘jaat panchayat’ style. “I gathered information about how legal action can be taken. I lodged a police complaint seeking action as per the provisions of the Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016. I also submitted an audio recording of the phone call, as evidence to show how we were boycotted,” he said.

As Nivdekar sought help from it, a MANS team headed by its state committee member Nandini Jadhav went to the Lanja police station. “The police had not taken any action on Nivdekar’s complaint. We spoke to the senior inspector Dadasaheb Ghutukade, who immediately asked his subordinates to take action,” said Jadhav.

“The police called up three people, namely Yashwant Nivdekar, Chandrakant Nivdekar and Shantaram Nivdekar, who were allegedly involved in the social boycott of the family. The MANS activists counselled them by explaining to them how social boycott is an offence as per the law. The police also warned them and took their written statement that they would repeat such an act,” said Jadhav.

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