People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 23

June 09, 2013




AIKS Organises Adivasi Mass Marriage in Surgana


J P Gavit

Hemant Waghere


ON May 21, 2013, thousands of people attended the mass marriage ceremony of 825 adivasi couples at Alangun village in Surgana tehsil of Nashik district. This remarkably enthusiastic function was organised by the Surgana tehsil unit of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), in association with the CPI(M)-led Adarsh Samata Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, an educational institution that runs several schools and hostels for adivasi children in Nashik district. 


The chief guest at this function was CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat. The other two guests of honour were AIKS state working president Rajaram Ozare, who is the sitting CPI(M) MLA from the Dahanu (ST) seat in Thane district, and AIDWA state president Mariam Dhawale – both of them state secretariat members of the CPI(M). Among the main organisers of the mass marriage function were AIKS state president, CPI(M) state secretariat member and former MLA J P Gavit, AIKS state general secretary Kisan Gujar and AIKS state council members Hemant Waghere and Irfan Shaikh – all three being state committee members of the CPI(M) – and many others.


While addressing the huge public meeting of several thousand people who had come to witness the mass marriage ceremony and to bless the newly wed couples, Brinda Karat congratulated the AIKS for starting and continuing the tradition of holding this remarkable function for the last three decades, which saved lakhs of rupees of wedding expenses for the poor adivasi people. She referred to the positive aspects of adivasi culture and said that these should be defended against the attacks of neo-liberalism and communalism. For instance, there is no dowry system among adivasis, and women enjoy a better status in tribals than in most other communities.


Among those who also addressed the large meeting were Rajaram Ozare, MLA, Mariam Dhawale, J P Gavit, Kisan Gujar, Hemant Waghere and Irfan Shaikh.




The AIKS in Nashik district began the tradition of holding mass adivasi marriages 32 years ago in 1981, under the leadership of veteran leader Narendra Malusare and with the efforts of adivasi activists of Surgana tehsil – Rama Mahale, K K Pawar, J P Gavit and Hari Mahale. Surgana tehsil has a 98 per cent adivasi population. Adjoining Gujarat, this hilly region is dependent on rain-fed agriculture only and is extremely backward, both economically and educationally.


Due to dire poverty, the age-old custom here was that, instead of an expensive marriage ceremony, a simple engagement ceremony called ‘pen’ used to be performed, after which the bride used to go and live at her in-laws’ place. Later on, if the economic situation improved, a wedding would be organised. But due to poverty, thousands of poor couples used to spend their entire life together without any marriage ceremony being ever performed. However, such couples and their offspring were socially looked down upon and had to face humiliation within the adivasi community.


Taking all this into account, the AIKS organised the first mass marriage ceremony of 32 adivasi couples at Rakshasbhuvan village in Surgana tehsil in 1981. The chief guest at this function was the then commissioner for adivasi development, Sadashivrao Tinaikar, an IAS officer renowned for his uprightness. The expenses for the lunch and the mandap were carried out through contributions collected by the AIKS from the people of the village. The AIKS collected additional funds and presented the newly wed couples with utensils and other such necessities. Over 1000 people attended this first ever mass marriage ceremony in Surgana tehsil and Nashik district.


The success of this small function gave a boost to such social efforts. The next year, in 1982, a mass marriage ceremony of 351 adivasi couples was performed at Alangun village in the same tehsil. The chief guests at this function were the renowned Marathi poet and playwright Kusumagraj (who later won the Jnanpith Award), CPI(M) Central Committee member Ahilya Rangnekar and AIKS state general secretary Narendra Malusare. After that, mass weddings were regularly organised in several villages and became very popular. In 1995, 1276 couples were married in another huge function.




In 2002, with the then CPI(M) state secretary Prabhakar Sanzgiri and Suman Sanzgiri as chief guests, another similar function was held. In this function, both the son and daughter of J P Gavit got married. That was, indeed, one of the specialities of this movement – that many CPI(M) and AIKS leaders and their children themselves got married in the mass marriage functions. Other leaders who got married in this way were Hemant Waghere, Savliram Pawar, Ramji Gavit, Ananda Chavan and so on.


On May 20, 2005, a mass wedding of 501 adivasi couples was held at Alangun. The two chief guests at this function were the then chief minister of Maharashtra, Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh, and the CPI(M) state secretary and Central Committee member Dr Ashok Dhawale. After this function, J P Gavit, who was then an MLA, raised the demand in the state assembly for government help to be given to couples who got married in mass marriage functions. Since the chief minister had himself attended the function and had actually seen the situation, the demand was conceded. A ‘Kanyadaan Yojana’ was started, wherein a cheque of Rs 10,000 is given to each such newly wed couple. Brinda Karat, in her speech, called for a substantial increase in this amount due to the massive price rise.


The CPI(M) and the AIKS have also taken the lead in various other fields in Surgana tehsil. For instance, they initiated the novel doorstep ration scheme which is now being implemented in 123 out of 291 revenue villages in the tehsil. This scheme has controlled the large-scale corruption in the public distribution system (PDS) and has succeeded in reaching foodgrains regularly to the people. In the old age pension scheme, Surgana tehsil has taken the lead in Maharashtra, with over 14,000 old women and men getting a regular pension of Rs 500 per month, which amounts to nearly Rs five crore per year. So far as the Forest Rights Act is concerned, out of the 12,000-odd land claims made by adivasis, over 7,300 claims have been accepted by the state government and a statewide AIKS struggle is going on for the rest. (See report in People’s Democracy, May 6-12, 2013 and in Loklahar, May 20-26, 2013.)


As a result of all this work, in 2012, the CPI(M) won all the three Zilla Parishad seats and five of the six Panchayat Samiti seats in Surgana tehsil, and also several Gram Panchayats. The party has been winning the Surgana Panchayat Samiti for over 25 years, a record that is surpassed only by the Talasari Panchayat Samiti in Thane district, which the party has been winning continuously for the last 50 years. The party lost the state assembly seat here in 2009 after winning it six times earlier, mainly due to the delimitation of constituencies and the unprincipled gang-up of all political forces – secular and communal – against the CPI(M). In the year 2013, the AIKS has completed a membership of 35,000-odd in Surgana tehsil alone, out of the total 75,000-odd membership in Nashik district and the 2,00,000-odd membership in the state. This has set a new record for any tehsil in Maharashtra.