Part of the International conference on Maharashtra in September 2021 - Prashant, University of Exeter, UK
The paper uncovers women’s kidnappings and forced marriages and investigates the Peshwa government’s approaches and responses as well as the legal categories used for recording such crimes. Although kidnappings were committed for different reasons, abduction for the purpose of forced marriage was most common, for which the documents exclusively examine Brahmins. The state documents, which examine non-Brahmins for kidnapping, generally do not record the intent of the act. Therefore, the paper believes that non-Brahmins possibly also committed such kidnappings for the purpose of forced marriages, and also that some of these kidnappings could be elopements, but the government and/or caste assemblies concealed this and only recorded the kidnapping and not the reason to protect the honour and purity of the communities as well as preventing religious conversions. Although the intent of the kidnapping committed by non-Brahmins was not recorded, the paper argues that such kidnappings committed for forced marriages were more frequent in Brahmin communities. Since under the Peshwas’ enforcement of the Shastric traditions only Brahmins were asked to practice dowry, it is possible that this led to a shortage of females in their communities as parents would abandon/kill them to avoid the fee. Such scarcity of females must be the main reason for kidnapping, as obtaining a dowry would have been desirable for any Brahmin, further encouraged by the knowledge that their marriages would not be dismissed once fully celebrated and that they would not be punished severely, all due to the Peshwas’ enforcement of Shastric traditions. Hence, the paper also asserts that the Peshwa’s pursuit of Shastric traditions encouraged crime and violence against women. The paper reveals such concerns by examining manuscripts and published Marathi documents issued by the Maratha state.