Mumbai: Even as youth all over the world were celebrating Valentine's Day, girl students at a college in Amravati solemnly swore not to have 'love marriages'.
The girls are first- and second-year BA students at the Mahila Kala Vanijya Vidya-laya at Chandur (Railway) in Amaravati district. The college is run by the Vidarbha Youth Welfare Society of Amravati.
At the college's National Service Scheme (NSS) camp, organised in a nearby village, on the eve of Valentine's Day, the girls were made to promise that they would not fall in love or have love marriages, nor would they marry boys who demanded dowry and in the future, be mothers who would neither accept nor offer dowry for their offspring.
The oath administered to the female students was: "I swear that I will repose full faith in my parents. I will neither fall in love nor have a love marriage.
I will not marry the person who demands dowry. But in case my parents are forced to pay dowry out of social compulsions, as a mother, I will not demand dowry for my son or pay dowry for my daughter in the future," was the oath given to students.
News of the incident created a storm in the state. Former Minister Pankaja Munde objected to the fact that only girls had been administered the pledge.
"Why were only girls asked to pledge? Boys too should have been administered oaths, to be non-violent and to refrain from aggressively pursuing their one-sided love," Munde suggested.
To hark back to mythology, Amravati is home to the village of Kaundinyapur, which was the capital of Vidarbha, ruled by King Bhishmaka.
His daughter, Princess Rukmini, is said to have lived here and she was a runaway bride, having eloped with Krishna on the day of her marriage, which had been arranged with Shishupal, a cousin of Krishna.
Not against love: Professor
Professor Pradeep Dande, who is also the head of department, political science, at the college, defended this oath, having been the one who conducted this 'swearing in'. "We are not against love or love marriage. I feel it is okay after the girl has completed her education and established in her career.
After her education, if a girl wants to marry a well-settled boy she loves, and in case her parents are opposed to it, we will support the girl and try to convince her parents," Dande told The Free Press Journal. Dande is an Ambedkarite and a two-time corporator of the Amravati Municipal Corporation.
"A discussion was organised for students on the topic of challenges before youth. As chair of this discussion, I spoke on unemployment, health and education issues. In the course of my work in rural areas for the last 23 years, I have observed that 90 per cent of girl students do not read newspapers and do not watch television news channels.
Therefore they are not aware about what is happening in the world and around them. I informed them about the recent incidents where women had been set ablaze at Hyderabad and Hinganghat. In the last 10 days, 10 young girls have eloped from Tiwasa tehsil.
I asked them, did they not trust their parents? Did they not think their parents could find them a good life partner? Many a time, boys who are not financially independent, try to impress girls with their borrowed fancy clothes, sunglasses and cars. Girls get impressed and abandon college midway through their studies to marry them.
Then there are boys who consider girls as their property and will relentlessly pursue a girl even if she does not reciprocate their feelings. Sometimes, due to frustration or cheating in love, girls commit suicide.
Can you impose a model code of conduct on yourself, I asked the girls and most of them agreed to do so," Dande told the FPJ. Those who did not agree, did not participate while others voluntarily took the oath, said Dande.
The girls who took the oath strongly defended their action when interviewed by television channels. "We do want to be set afire like girls in Hyderabad and Hinganghat. We trust our parents and we will follow this code of conduct," they said.