TNN | Jun 12, 2013,

JABALPUR: A tribal panchayat has excommunicated families of nine girls from Madhya Pradesh‘s Betul district, who were found pregnant at a mass marriage event under mukhya mantri kanyadaan yojna.

The girl’s were sent away from the event after undergoing pregnancy tests on June 7. The panchayat, which is the supreme body of Korku and Gonds tribes that form 90% of the population in the region, issued the orders against the families for “bringing ignominy to the community”.

The families have been left to fend for themselves. Even local BJA MLA Geeta Ramjilal, a tribal, has refused to intervene. “In any case, once the tribesmen decide to take a particular course of action, nothing can be done by anyone. Their word is law after all,” she told TOI on Tuesday. She is careful not to upset her party’s tribal vote bank.

Sarju Markam, a panchayat member, said the order can be rescinded if the families invite the villagers for a community meal and host a “jaatmilona”, a function to restore social ties.

“The girls brought dishonour and there was a public spectacle. So penance has to be observed,” he said.

One of the girl’s fiancee said feeding a population of 1,200 is something much beyond her folks.

He said he would stand by her and “marry her the day the crisis gets over”. But he fears the wait could be too long.

As landless labourers, the family collectively earns Rs 1,000 per month and the arrival of monsoon further cuts down earning prospects. Raising the amount for the lunch at a short notice would be impossible. This could mean an uncertain future for him, his prospective bride and the child as well.

The girl, in her 20s, quietly sits at home. She has been forbidden for moving out and has been trying to ignore jeers and barbs aimed at her. Her fiance has been helping the family to find a moneylender to fund the feast.