BALASORE: Tribal leaders in Odisha's Mayurbhanj district on Sunday welcomed the decision taken by the community heads against Tribal Welfare Minister Sudam Marndi for reportedly allowing his daughter to marry a Brahmin going against the tradition of the Santhal Community.
As per the decision taken by the Santhal leaders in a community meeting at Bangriposi, Marndi and residents of three villages - Kandalia (native of the minister), Dahisahi and Balikhani were socially boycotted lifelong. The villagers had to face the music for supporting Marndi and not attending the meeting on Friday. The meeting was attended by the members of Adibasi Socio Educational and Cultural Association (ASECA), heads (Majhi Hadam) of nearly 150 tribal dominated villages, heads of ghat parganas (where tribals immerse the mortal remains of dead relatives) and heads of desh parganas. Though the minister was also invited, he did not turn up.
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) district President and tribal leader Fagu Hansdah welcomed the fatwa issued against the minister’s family and other villagers. He said, unlike others, the Santhal community is conservative and they do not spare anybody who goes against its tradition. “It was Marndi who had opposed many inter-caste marriages including the ones of former minister Saraswati Hembram’s children and former minister Chaitanya Prasad Majhi’s daughters. Now how can he escape? The community leaders have taken the right decision to preserve the Santhal tradition and they have sent the message that be a minister or common man, the rule is same for all,” he said.
When Marndi was in JMM, he was known for his anti diku (non-tribals) behaviour. In those days, he would mobilize tribal votes through his fiery speeches against the non-tribals and instigate community chiefs to ostracise tribesmen marrying outside the caste. Now, he is being hauled over the coals for allowing his own daughter to do so. Rajya Sabha MP from BJD Sarojini Hembram however tried to strike a balance. It was obvious as Marndi is now in BJD and a minister in the State. She said both the daughter of the minister and the community leaders are right in their own way.
“She is an educated girl and has the right to choose her life partner. On the other hand, there is a tradition in Santhal community which does not allow inter-caste marriages. So whatever the community heads have decided is also right,” she clarified. Incidentally, Marndi had then allegedly opposed the marriages of Sarojini and her sister Lipi as they tied the knot with non-tribals. The family was also excommunicated by the community heads. “That time he was in another political party,” she said trying to parry the query why won’t she now oppose him directly. Even as on Thursday, the minister had gone to his village Kandalia where chiefs of three villages and tribal priests organised a purification puja and blessed the newly-wed couple, the chiefs of other villages and parganas did not accept it. They said acceptance of such marriages would distort the age-old tradition and custom which is sacrosanct.
Meanwhile, the community heads have called another meeting on Wednesday and are reportedly preparing to perform certain rituals. As per the Santhal tradition, a neem twig, broken earthen pot, used broomsticks and burnt wood is buried in front of the house of a violator this tradition if he is found guilty by the community leaders.
Minister of State for ST and SC Development (Tribal Welfare), Sports and Youth Services Sudam Marndi, who belongs to Santhal tribe, had married off his daughter Sanjivani, a doctor, to BJD students' wing general secretary Sunil Sarangi, a Brahmin, at a plush hotel in Bhubaneswar on January 31. The marriage was attended by many VIPs and VVIPs including Governor SC Jamir and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.