An alleged “kissing competition” in a local fair in Littipara Assembly constituency of Jharkhand’s Pakur district on the evening of December 9 has led to a row, with the state BJP criticising Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA Simon Marandi, who had attended the programme, of trivialising tribal culture.
Marandi said this was just to prevent married couples from seeking divorce, which, he claimed, was some sort of trend in the Santhal community.
The fair, held every year, was held in Talapahari village of Littipara Assembly constituency, where Marandi was elected the MLA in the bypoll in April this year.
One of the “events” in the fair was the “kissing competition” in which couples were asked to kiss each other in public. Around 20-odd couples participated.
Supporting the “kissing competition”, Marandi said: “It is not about making people modern as such, because tribals have their own lifestyle. But it is also true that there is a growing trend among tribals of divorcing their spouses. Men and women, both leave their current spouses to marry somebody else. This leads to families breaking up. This event was intended to make love blossom between the couples. In fact, the name of the fair in Santhali language literally means “kiss of love (prem ka chumban).”
Asked about the BJP, Marandi said: “I don’t know what they are saying. In any case, do the BJP people know the realities of the village? Do they even visit one?”
Hemlal Murmu, the state BJP vice-president and the man who unsuccessfully contested against Marandi, said in a press conference that such event amounted to trivialising tribal culture. “In Santhal traditions, the girl and boy do not even shake hands. Kissing is something way too far. Santhal tradition never had such a thing. Also, this fair is being organised in the name of Siddo, Kanu (tribal icons) and the Hul revolt, which they led. But at this time, it is neither the birth anniversary of these brave leaders nor of the Hul revolt. This is humiliation of the female power.”
Murmu demanded that Marandi should not be allowed to attend the Assembly session that starts from Tuesday.