NEW DELHI: Maharashtra has notched a four-fold increase in inter-caste marriages involving dalits, a figure that points to liberalizing social values if not a radical makeover.
The growing inter-caste marriages in Maharashtra tie in with the jump in national figures. According to figures available with the Centre, the number of people tying the knot with dalits is constantly going up, touching 9,623 in 2012 from 7,617 in 2011 and 7,148 in 2010.
While the national statistics are on the up, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala appear to be the top examples in the phenomenon long suggested by social reformers as the best tool to weaken the barriers of caste segregation.
To encourage the trend, the Centre pays up to Rs 50,000 to each inter-caste couple that has one spouse as dalit.
Maharashtra seems to be ahead of other states in taking to the liberal tradition, with 2,296 marriages between dalits and non-dalits in 2012.
The rise appears sharp when compared with the meager 563 marriages in 2011 and 628 in 2010. In fact, the state has made a rally after the tally fell to three figures from 1,050 in 2009 and 1,017 in 2008.
The numbers, though small when compared to the population, are only of couples that come forward to declare the marriage and claim the incentive — obviously belonging to lower-middle class strata. Observers view it as a “representative trend”.
K Raju, former IAS officer and head of the Scheduled Castes cell of Congress, said, “It is a positive sign that indicates greater sense of acceptance of inter-caste marriages and waning prejudices. It is one of the ways to make society casteless. It should be given robust support systems.”
Andhra is top of the heap with 3,040 marriages in 2012, compared to 1,805 in 2011 and 1,641 in 2010. Kerala clocked 2,454 inter-caste marriages, a healthy jump from 1,040, 1,000 and 996 in the previous three years.
Interestingly, Tamil Nadu in 2011 notched 2,750 marriages, up from 2,356 in 2010. The state witnessed violence in July after a dalit boy from Dharmapuri married a Vanniyar-OBC girl, a love affair that ended in social unrest with groom Ilavarasan found dead on the railway tracks in mysterious circumstances.
The stats appear to bear out the trend of caste hostility in feudal societies – with Haryana reporting the highest annual figure of 160, Himachal Pradesh (232), Madhya Pradesh (232), Punjab (252) and Rajasthan (130) over the last five years.