R'than girl ends male rule, heads Gujjar family

She, her sisters face opposition from relatives, locals

Educated women in conservative Rajasthan is defying tradition and customs that perpetrated patriarchy.

In a first of its kind, a girl was anointed as head of a Gujjar family in a formal ceremony in Bundi district on Sunday under police protection, setting aside objections raised by relatives.

Ram Singh Dhabai passed away 12 days ago. He left behind her three daughters and wife. At a function, the eldest daughter of Dhabai was anointed as head of family with a pagdi rasam (turban tying ceremony) in Bada Naya village.

This is perhaps the first time in the state when a girl has been presented with the headgear representing hereditary rights exercised by a male.

Dhabai’s three daughters Trishla, Tashima and Tarini, all well educated, opposed the age-old custom of making a male the head of the family and sought the district administration’s intervention when relatives opposed.

The villagers were in for a shock when the eldest daughter performed the last rites of their father, including lighting the funeral pyre.

“My father always treated us at par with boys. So what if we don’t have a brother? My father gave us everything, including education. Why can’t we participate in his last rites?” said Trishla, the eldest among the three sisters.

However, going against the tide and putting up a front against relatives and villagers was not an easy. The sisters protested against their uncles’ decision to make their eldest cousin the head of the family. They also opposed organising a death feast for the village, which was a common tradition.

“My uncle and cousins have been telling us since our father passed away that one of our cousins will take over as the family’s head. They also said that a mrityu bhoj (death feast) has to be organised for nearly 1,500 people of the village,” said Trishla, a student of the Indian Institute of Technology.

Relatives also tried to dissuade the girls from participating in their father’s last rites. “I lit the funeral pyre. I don’t see anything wrong with that. If my father never discriminated against us, nobody has a right to raise a finger,” she said.

Tashima told Deccan Herald that their relatives were eying their 108-acre ancestral land. They (relatives) thought that with no male member in our family, they could grab the land. The girls had then approached the district collector to counter the opposition.

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