In 1954, the Special Marriage Act was enacted as a part of series of reforms of personal laws in India. It is meant to govern marriages that could not be honored according to religious customs, which meant inter-faith or inter-religious marriages.
Inter-religious or inter-faith marriages means a marriage of people belonging to different religions or different faiths.
In 1872, there was a law similar to the Special Marriage Act, but it had some elements like renunciation of religion by anyone getting married under it, which was later removed as a precondition for marriage of these four religions- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. But it wasn’t enough, so the Special Marriage Act was enacted.
The current status of inter-religious marriage is that there is a rise in the number of such marriages. In 2013-14, 2,624 marriages were registered in India that were inter-religious. The number rose to 10,655 in 2015-16.
In 2018, the Karnataka High Court ordered the police to give protection to a girl who had married a person of another religion.
Hence, inter-religious or inter-faith marriage is a personal matter between two individuals.
As mentioned earlier, inter-religious marriages are increasing in the country. However, following is an instance where inter-religious marriage was politicised.
In 2017, a BJP MP of Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje, criticized the marriage of a Congress MLA and the working president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Dinesh Rao, who is married to a Muslim woman named Tabassum, by saying, “We all know who he has married”.
In 2017, a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl got married under the Special Marriage Act in Ghaziabad. But some right-wing activists, led by BJP Ghaziabad city President Ajay Sharma, created a ruckus at the reception venue, leading to a political lathi-charge, calling it a case of ‘love jihad’.
‘Love jihad’ is a term used by males who are Hindu for when a Hindu girl either marries or befriends a Muslim man.
The concept of ‘love jihad’ was first mentioned in 2007 in Kerala and Karnataka, but became a public discourse in 2009. Catholic Church bodies in Kerala and Hindu groups in Karnataka in 2009 claimed that several women had been lured to convert to Islam. The 2009 case of 18-year-old Silija Raj, who eloped with her Muslim boyfriend in Karnataka, was allegedly used as propaganda by far-right Hindu groups to peddle the ‘love jihad’ myth.
In 2011 in Kerala, a girl named Akhila Ashokan married a Muslim man named Shafin Jahan and converted to Muslim religion. She changed her name from ‘Akhila’ to ‘Hadiya’.
The ‘Sangh Parivar’ or ‘RSS Family’ employed ‘Love Jihad’ as a political strategy at the time of the UP by-election in 2013 and appointed Yogi Adityanath to lead a campaign about it. In a video released, Adityanath was seen promising to convert 100 Muslim girls for every Hindu girl that marries a Muslim man.
However, in 2018, in a case where the Supreme Court was against the interference of ‘Khap Panchayats’ in inter-religious and inter-caste marriages, the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said, “If people decide to marry, they are adults and you are nobody to interfere.”
Therefore, in my opinion, inter-religious or inter-faith marriages should not be politicised as, firstly, it is a personal matter between two people, even if they are from different religions or have different faiths, to marry or not. Secondly, as mentioned above in the example of the Ghaziabad case, protest or ruckus is created. Due to this, hatred is spread and according to these example of conversion of Muslim girls into Hindu, which happened during the time of the 2013 UP by-election, attempts are made to gain vote bank.