Khunti: They met, fell in love at first sight, set up house and soon had a daughter. But there was no happily ever after for Kudungi Mundi and Kudrais Sanga, a young couple in the impoverished tribal belt of Khunti who simply couldn’t afford to get wed and silently bore years of societal rejection.
Kudungi was branded a ‘Dhukhni’, a woman who has entered a home without getting married, and their five-year-old daughter Presee was not recognised by either community or law.
And then in January, it all changed when an NGO offered them a chance to legalise their relationship in a mass wedding.
“When we came to know of the mass wedding it was a dream come true, we instantly agreed. Now, we are legally married and our child has legal sanctity,” Kudrais told PTI.
Trapped in an endless cycle of loans, backbreaking labour and poverty, thousands of tribal couples like Kudungi and Kudrais don’t get married as they don’t have the money to host the mandatory community feast, a ritual as binding as any religious ceremony elsewhere.
Without the feast, the tribals does not validate the relationship, leaving couples and kids in Jharkhand’s villages to live and die without the family unit ever getting social sanctity.
The woman, labelled a Dhukhni, is shunned even after death and is buried in the village, not in the common burial ground where legally married women get a resting place.
By Namita Tewari