This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by shweta srivastava. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

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

More from shweta srivastava

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.

Suno!

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.

You must be to comment.

More from shweta srivastava

Similar Posts

By Akshay Sonawane

By Vaishnavi Gond

By Snayini Das

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below