BHOPAL: The HIV/AIDS test on the Rai folk dancer women at a Hindu religious fair in Ashok Nagar district of Madhya Pradesh has kicked up a row in the BJP-ruled state. The three-day fair beginning March 11 coincides annually with Rang Panchami at the Karila area of Ashok Nagar, around 170 km from the state capital Bhopal. The entire route is dotted with Rai folk dance performances by women artistes.
For the second year in a row, the Rai dancer women were tested for possible HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis-B infection by the health department staff at a makeshift medical facility created within the fair premises.
The folk dance is performed by the Bedia community where prostitution is rampant.
“At least 10 women dancers went through the tests which were conducted with their visible consent. In no way the tests meant that we’re doubting the character of these dancers. But to be on the safer side, (if these women came in contact with men during the fair) that these tests were conducted,” Ashok Nagar district chief medical and health officer Dr Neeraj Chhari said.
Tweeting over the issue, Piyush Babele, the journalist-turned-media advisor to MP Congress chief Kamal Nath, wrote, “What message does the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government want to convey by conducting the HIV test of women dancers? Doesn’t it amount to disrespecting Hindu temples?”
This is the second time in a week that the Congress has attacked the ruling BJP over insult to Hindu religion. The party went on the offensive over female bodybuilders dressed in two-piece suits posing before a Hanuman idol at a body-building event organised by BJP leaders in Ratlam.
It’s still not clear if the specific consent of the women was taken before the tests in line with the HIV/AIDS testing protocol.
The National Aids Control Organization (NACO) guidelines give the person undergoing HIV/AIDS test the right to keep information on HIV status confidential. However, testing of the women dancers at the religious fair was filmed and pictures circulated over social media.
Cong slams BJP
Congress has questioned the BJP government on the testing of dancers. It’s unclear if specific consent of the women was taken before the tests were conducted in line with HIV/AIDS testing protocol. As per guidelines, info on the HIV status of a person is kept confidential. But dancers’ photos were circulated over social media.