Last year, Sakshi Mishra, daughter of a UP MLA, brought the demon of casteism to India’s mainstream. She said she was threatened for her life after marrying a Dalit man. Well, in India, there is an endless list of such cases. Subtle or overt, casteism is practised even today and Marriage within the same caste is a reality in Indian families. And transgressions are strictly a no-no. India only has 5.82% intercaste marriages, and that has remained unchanged for the last four decades.
Similarly, Ankit Saxena was killed by his ‘Muslim’ partner’s family in Delhi in 2018. Perhaps, breaking barriers of religions or caste, rather being indifferent to it, when in love, is abhorred by the larger society. These tales show that keeping the boundaries of the social hierarchy becomes more important than consenting adults.
Interestingly, prejudices about the other culture, community or caste also alter our parent’s circle of choices, be it a love marriage or arranged one. For instance, on a personal note, my father, a gold medallist, has always kept his two daughters’ education, choices and decisions above everything else. But upon asking what if one day I fall for a guy from another caste or religion, he advised very affectionately- “Beta, just don’t marry a Muslim guy!” (Dear, just don’t marry a Muslim man) The reason he cited was that it’s been seen that women in ‘that’ community are bound by conservatism!
Also, it’s a matter of maintaining a ‘purity’ of bloodline through the same caste and same faith marriages.
Casteism and increasing religious polarisation are other factors. Torching of Muslim families’ houses is one such incident among many others, where a disproportionate vengeance reflects increasing religious divide among people and such love tales become just a trigger for the same. Similarly, casteism is as alive in urban areas as in rural ones, if love and marriages are concerned.
Fear of social sanction, honour killings, caste and Khap Panchayats’ control over the choice of marriage partners make parents and communities stringently perpetuate the accepted social norms here. Indian parents, relatives and community exert huge control in the aspect of the marriage of their children. Also, as per the statistics from a study, married couples often live with their parents. That’s why getting a daughter -in -law from the same culture becomes necessary for them.
As for the bride’s family, it’s the patriarchy that makes male members decide the ‘fate’ of their daughter, sister or cousin. The consent of the bride doesn’t matter much for most in India, as per the above-mentioned research. This might seem exaggerated in urban Indian families but such accounts provide proof of the same.
Talking of the proactive role of intercaste and interreligious marriages in realising the vision of ‘Unity in diversity’, the Supreme court has taken a firm stand on the malaise. In various judgements, it has, in a way, insisted on individual rights rather than the perpetuation of age-old casteism and communal orthodoxy. Significantly, in Hadiya’s case, the apex court has called it a fundamental right to marry by one’s choice, if one is an adult.
On the legal front, Special Marriage Act, 1954, has provisions to ensure recognition for such marriages but unless the society and loved ones of such couples love them back, more than their so-called limits of social fabrication, it’s a long way to tread on in the quest of modern love stories being accepted.
I believe that parents should just let their children fly and be an anchor if they stumble, but the choices regarding marriage, mistakes and expenses must be borne by the adult couple only. Parents should give their blessings, guide them and be their affectionate advisors. It’s not only the constitutional and legal right to marry of someone’s choice but its also the right to be happy and decide for themselves that must be acknowledged.
Once this becomes a norm rather than the exception, many hurdles in realising this inclusive vision of society would gradually vanish. When a person from another caste or community shares her life with you, the divides, the communal-coloured specs and the tendency of putting others in place as per the ‘caste ‘ or majoritarianism would start to become an exception.
The syncretic and multicultural fragrance would be organically diffused across the society through such marriages and the children of such family would be the blessed ones paving the way for balanced lives and notions rather than being parochial and poisonous in their thoughts towards minorities. It’s time we truly become modern rather than just westernising in piecemeal.