Fighting stigma, poverty, Jharkhand tribal pair look for happily ever after endings

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

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