Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) cadres staged a dharna inside the Gobichettipalayam Joint 1 Registrar office in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district on Friday, July 7, after sub-registrar Gayatri allegedly refused to register a self-respect marriage. The marriage was earlier solemnised at the DK office.
Lenin (26) and Sindhu (25), residents of Valparai in Coimbatore district, have been in a relationship for the last 6 years. Lenin is a postgraduate student and currently working in a food processing firm in Bengaluru and Sindhu is a nurse working in a hospital in Coimbatore. After their parents opposed their match, they approached DK to organise a Suyamariyathai Thirumanam (self-respect marriage). Self-respect marriages, which involve a wedding ceremony without the thali or a Brahmin priest, are legal in Tamil Nadu. The ritual involves a simple exchange of vows promising comradeship and equality, and is governed by the Hindu Marriage (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 1967. The ratifying of self-respect marriages is considered one of the landmark achievements of the Dravidian movement.
According to a social media post by Senniyappan, lawyer and DK leader from Erode district, Lenin and Sindhu’s marriage was solemnised by N Sivalingam at the Erode North DK office on July 7. Later, the cadres along with the couple went to the registrar’s office to register the marriage. But sub-registrar Gayatri refused to do so. The cadres then staged a sit-in protest inside the office and explained to the sub-registrar that refusing to register the marriage is an offence according to section 166 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 166 stipulates the punishment for a public servant disobeying the law, with an intent to cause injury to any person.
Senniyappan also alleged that since Gayatri was appointed as a sub-registrar in Gobichettipalayam, she has not registered any self-respect marriage.
Talking to TNM, Senniyappan said that Gayatri outright refused to register the marriage asking whether they had a licence to solemnise the marriage. “However, as per the law, there is no licence needed to conduct marriages. All we need is a person to solemnise the marriage along with two eyewitnesses. Without citing any grounds to reject, she refused to register the marriage,” he said.
“We have solemnised many marriages in the past several decades under the leadership of DK leader K Veeramani, even in public meetings. Chief Minister MK Stalin solemnises many marriages in the state everyday. None of those who conduct such self-respect marriages have a licence,” he further added.
The Hindu Marriage (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 1967 was enacted by Chief Minister CN Annadurai when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam came to power in 1967. It was one of the first legislations he signed, which ensured that self-respect marriages (between Hindus) were legalised.
“We want the government to issue guidelines to all registrar offices regarding self-respect marriages to ensure that other officials at the office familiarise themselves with the Act. I also urge the government to issue a checklist for such marriages. So if two adults desire to register their self-respect marriage, the officials should register it if the couple checks all the boxes in the checklist,” Senniyappan added.
The Act legalises any marriage between any two Hindus, whether called Suyamariyathai (self-respect) or Seerthiruththa (reformist) marriage or by any other name, solemnised in the presence of relatives, friends or other persons. In other words, it recognises marriage between two Hindus who got married without priests, centuries-old rituals, and ceremonies. In 2015, the Madras High Court said that self-respect marriages solemnised without the presence of a priest cannot be deemed illegal.