How caste hegemony has meant boycott for 17 families over inter-caste marriage: Gujarat

Seventeen families of the barber (Nai) caste in Gujarat’s Bhiloda taluka of Aravalli district have been facing a brute social boycott by privileged castes after a young man from the community married one from their caste


The Patel community has imposed a brutal boycott on 17 ‘Nai’ (barber) families of the Bhutavad village in Bhiloda taluka, even cutting off electricity to their homes, physical attacks through stone pelting and the threat of eviction from the village. Their ‘crime’? A month earlier a young Nai married, by choice a woman from the dominant Patel community and since then the social boycott has made the entire Nai community misrerable.

According to the parents of the young man, Sachin Nai and the girl, a girl belonging to the more privileged, Chowdhary (Patel) community had eloped and married a few months ago without informing either side of the families. “But a few days ago, Sachin contacted the family and appeared in front of Gandhinagar police station. But since then my son has not been able to contact his family,” said Subash Nai, father of Sachi to the New Indian Express.

“On December 9, I received the marriage certificate by post. As soon as the people in the village came to know of this marriage, they boycotted 17 families of our community and are constantly pressurising us to send the girl back else they will not let even a single family stay in the village. They have also cut off our electricity and pelted stones at the house,” he further said. Prabhudas who is one of the members of the 17 boycotted families said, “They have stopped selling milk and other groceries to the Nai families, children are not allowed to attend school, and even a pregnant woman is treated badly.”

“We tried to talk to upper caste males, they are adamant on not allowing us to live in the village,” she alleged and demanded that the district administration should intervene,” Prabhudas said.District Collector Narendra Meena said, “On Wednesday evening, the issue was brought to my knowledge. I have instructed the SDM and local officers to address the issue within 24 hours.”

Who are the Nais?

Nais (the barber caste), also known as Sain/Sen, is a generic term for occupational castes of barbers. The name is said to be derived from the Sanskrit word nāpita (नापित).  In modern times Nai in northern India refer to themselves as “Sain” instead of Nai. The Nai caste has been listed as an Other Backward Classes in various regions of India including the state of Gujarat. These include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi NCR, Goa, Jharkand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tripura,, Uttarachal, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal.

The traditional occupation of Nais is barbering. The barber also has duties in connection with births, marriages and other festive occasions. Typically and ironically, the Hindu caste order, while having utilitarian even ‘customary’ roles for individuals like barbers from the more depressed castes, is still rigid and exclusionary when it comes to marriage and co-habitation as the plight of these 17 families from Bhiloda reveals. Nais even at times, act as the ‘Brahmin’s assistant’, and perform marriages for the lower castes, who cannot employ a Brahmin!!



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