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The fight against India's toxic caste system is ongoing in certain pockets of the country, with different people finding their own way to fight its brutality. Even so, the Thakor community in Gujarat clearly didn’t get the memo. Now, they have issued a ban against inter-caste marriages and unmarried girls using mobile phones in 12 villages in the Banaskantha district of Gujarat, India. Thakors are a subgroup of the Koli community, who are mostly cultivators or small land-owners that belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are educationally or socially disadvantaged.
Despite even Indian courts endorsing inter-caste marriage to kill the caste system, about 800 members of this community got together and decided in a meeting on July 12 that they wouldn’t tolerate anyone marrying outside the community. This rule is so strict that they’re even imposing fines of Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh for girls and boys who marry outside their community, respectively. Even the parents of these young people will be held financially accountable, although this specification has been worded in a way so as to not attract legal penalty. The community used "whichever girl puts the community down" in the order though this is just a euphemism for marrying outside the community, those in the know of the development told The Economic Times.The community leaders even formulated a nine-point programme and said that anyone found violating these would be punished by the community. This programme includes disallowing girls, from using mobile phones because apparently, that’s what leads them to fall in love with someone outside their community."We have decided to prevent girls from using mobile phones so that they focus more on studies. The rule is valid for all college-going youth from the community as they use mobile phones to make videos and waste time. The community will offer tablets and laptops so that they can study better," Suresh Thakor, a community leader from the Dantiwada village in the district told PTI. They are also putting into place rules that cut down on ‘unnecessary expenditure’ during weddings such as hiring a DJ or a fireworks display.What’s even more concerning is that the local Congress MLA Geniben Thakor, who also belongs to the community, is completely supportive of this and feels that mobile phones should be taken away from girls to prevent them from eloping. “I receive distress calls daily from parents whose daughter has run away with a boy (from another caste). Also, in the past one month there have been nearly 10 cases of young boys and girls jumping into canals and committing suicide,” she said. And when asked about why this rule shouldn’t be made gender-neutral, her response was, “This will automatically control boys. Since girls are easily controlled because they stay with parents, it is right to ban (mobile phone use among) girls.”But honestly, the only thing that needs to be controlled urgently is a handful of members of a community dictating draconian terms and perpetuating patriarchy even in 2019.Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.