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How Love Challenged Boundaries: A Study of Inter-Faith Marriages In Prayagraj

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Here, I am starting with a poem where a beloved says something to her partner (love).

Suno na! is daur kee kahani-

Baraso pahale jesa hi hai

Kuchh khas nahi badala,

 aur aaj bhi,

Bah raha hai kahin kahin ganda pani.

Ganda pani, jise log pi rahe hai, aur pila rahe hai.

Ganda-pani batane aur foot dalane ka, mar-kat aur

Mahaj rajneetik laabh ka.

Bhagwadharee hath kheech rahein hai mera,

Tum mujhe kas kar pakad lo,

Mujhe apne sath le chalo

Le chalo dur kahi wadiyo me-

Jaha prakriti ho,

 aur mai rahoo sirf tumhre saath.

Mohbbat ka rang mahaj hara aur lal nahi hota,

Mohabbat to khud hi ek rang hai.

Jo bhagawadharee par nahi chadhta

Mohabbat bahut badi cheej hai,

yu hi har kisi ko khairat me nahi milata.


Rokane wale rokate rahege,

Mar-kat karate rahege

Par tum mera hath thaame rakhna

Mujhe apne sath le chalana.

Mohabbat to majahabo se bhi pare hai,

Ye to yu hi failati rahegi

Yah to aadat hai meri aur tumhari

Badhti hee rahegi

Jaise kaaynaat.

interfaith india marriage

When the word “love” comes into our mind, what do we imagine? Something romantic? Nowadays, the term love-jihad is more highlighted in the Indian socio-political nexus. The term says that Muslims boys marry Hindu girls on the basis of lie and fraud, converting them to Islam. In India, generally, this term is used by rightwing politics. As a researcher working on inter-caste and inter-religious marriage, I observed that Indian society lacks an individual taking the decision to marry by their own will.

Here, most of the times, arranged marriages (arranged by parents, elders of the family within caste and religion) happen. Not only is the right to marry a contentious issue in Indian society, but even the freedom of friendship with any Muslim boy is contentious. There is a fear of parents and society that their daughter will fall in love with a Muslim boy. That is the reason behind the restriction on Hindu girl’s friendship with a Muslim boy. But education, globalization, modernization and the human nature of loving each other (sometimes beyond boundaries) give space to choose a partner out of caste and religion.

Hindu religion is divided into four Varnas which is the base of the caste system. Concerning the issues related to Hindu-Muslim relationship, it is propagated that inter-religious marriage is acceptable when a Hindu girl will not convert to Islam, but on the base of research work, it is observed that even inter-caste marriage is badly opposed by the society. So, the reader can think that what will be the opposition for inter-religious marriages.

Actually, here I quote Uma Chakrwarti that women are the gateway of the caste system. I add here that women are not only the gateway of the caste system but also the gateway of religion. In all over the world, no religion gives any permission for marriage out of their religion. This means that there is no freedom to choose a life partner beyond their own religion. Religion and caste are the main concepts which control the female body.

In the name of religion, caste and obligation to parents and elders, the female body is regulated from a long time to this era. Generally, it looks easy that a female is free to choose her partner, but the reality of society is very different. When it challenges the caste hierarchy and religious norms, the conflict starts. Even in this twenty-first century, where women lead the society all over the world, they are not free to express their own choice of love in front of their parents and society.

The name of ‘love’ or ‘freedom of choice’ is stigmatised as a crime in our society. If it comes to a relationship between upper caste female to lower caste men, it is considered as a crime. Somehow, if an upper-caste female wants to have a love marriage within the same caste or varna system, it will be acceptable because of Anuloma relationship. If any upper-caste female tries to connect to a lower caste male, the fear of falling in love will start. That is the reason for honour killings in society.

Honour is not the term which is only related to parents and family. It is deeply connected with the female body, parents, family, community, village, area, and society. That is the reason behind the opposition of inter-religious marriage (especially Hindu-Muslim relationship). Inter-religious marriage is based on the stigma that that couple will not survive because of differences in religious notions, but as I observed through research work, there are numbers of inter-caste and an inter-religious married couple who live happily in their lives.

Through interviews with these couples, I figured that there is no connection of inter-religious marriage with the term ‘Love-Jihad’; they said that it is a propaganda to curb love, especially inter-religious marriage. Further, they said how this Love-jihad agenda has many socio-politico-economic dimensions also.

In our country, politics affects our daily life. It has even entered in the ambit of our individual rights given by the Indian constitution. Right to choose (liberty) is not only a constitutional right but also a human right. Nowadays, the term love-jihad is used frequently but as investigated by NIA, there are no cases of love-jihad. It was found that the conversion happened by their own will.

Representational image.

In my study, I found one different story.

A tenth class educated Hindu boy (he is elder to his partner by five years) fell in love with a Muslim girl who had completed her graduation. They ran away to do court marriage. But at that time, they had no idea about how to get one. They then went to an Arya Samaj Mandir to get married easily as compared to court marriage. They said that court marriage was very challenging for the couple.

The legal complications forced them to get a religious marriage immediately – either through Arya Samaj or Sharia. In this case, the couple decided before marriage- “We will never convert our religion because we respect each other’s religion even though religion is the cause of many problems in all over the world. We fell in love and love is the base of our relationship, so we will not convert our religion.”

Then the girl told me what happened to them in the temple. “Some Pujaris and others gave me some water to spread all over my body. They were narrating some mantras and we were unable to understand. We thought it is because it’s Sanskrit language and we were already fearful due to our decision of running away. So our target was just to get married. After some time, we were thinking if it was a conversion from Islam to Hinduism? I was surprised because we never agreed for the conversation either in Hindu or Islam. My husband felt sorry because even he didn’t understand and know the conversion process. He considered it a part of marriage rituals.

Anyhow, we got married in the Arya Samaj Mandir. Thank God! We have a mutual understanding. I believe in my life partner that he will never convert me against my own will, but they were very bad people who didn’t suggest us the right way instead of conversion. After marriage, I follow my own religion (Islam) and my husband also follows his religion (Hindu). We celebrate festivals of both religions- Hindu and Islam.”

She shared that they’re both now happy in this inter-religious marriage, not because of religion but because of their belief in love, God and each other.

Coming to the question of the right to convert, I found a case study where a Hindu girl converted to Islam and said to me, “I converted by my own will, and besides, I follow as I want. My husband never said anything on my decision. I am free to do anything from food, culture to clothes. I am learning both religious norms and I am enjoying both festivals of Hindu-Muslim.

According to her, there should be an easy way of getting inter-religious marriages done, because the legal complications are becoming a barrier for couples. She also thanks her husband for good understanding and love and both families for their support. They convinced the girl’s side of the family after marriage.

The Special Marriage Act, 1954 or other laws do not give any punishment, rules or regulation for conversion because conversion is a constitutional right. That’s the reason for all the opposition on the current anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh. For whatever purposes, marriage or otherwise, it is an individual right and a choice of the person. Conversion is not a crime.

Love-jihad is a false notion created by some originations to restrict, create fears, mobilize Hindus against the Muslim community and distract people from the relevant socio-political issue and so on.

India is a land of inclusion and diversity, where different caste, class, region, religion, languages coexist and people live together with respect and love. But time to time, there is a need to understand the conservative mindset which tries to destroy the unity of the society or our India. ‘Freedom of choice’/ ‘Love’ and ‘Freedom of conversion’ are basic rights of an individual and we must be thankful for the Indian constitution, which gave these rights to us.

Shweta Srivastava is a PhD. Scholar at G.B.Pant Social Science Institute, Jhusi.

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