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Sangh Parivar's Love Jihad campaign also 'pitted against' inter-caste marriages

A Sangh Parivar campaign in UP against Love Jihad 
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
The Love Jihad rhetoric is back in action in almost all the BJP-ruled states. They appear to be competing with each other in proclaiming to come up with a law to stop the ‘conspiracy’ to convert Hindu girls into Islam in the guise of ‘love’. The fact is, as a political party, BJP has been very active in creating issues and narratives which are woven around Muslim conspiracy theories. It suits to its political interests.
The Love Jihad theory is a calculated effort to deny individuals their choice to marry. India lives in castes and millions of Indians have been infected by the ideas of caste supremacy. Every caste has been fed with the ideas of its ‘golden past’, even as vilifying others. Crossing the caste barrier one of the biggest ‘dissents’ of our time. The same is true of inter-faith marriage.
Before the term Love Jihad was coined, we have had ‘love marriage’, as if marrying someone you love is wrong. Considered a “union” of two families, marriages have been turned into a huge industry. Investment in marriages have been considered a matter of ‘izzat’ or ‘prestige’. Crossing caste or religious barrier to marry someone you love is believed, under this narrative, a threat to caste or community “izzat”.
Targeting Muslims and Islam in the name of Love Jihad, in fact, serves the proponents of casteist forces who are proud of their ‘caste ancestry’. They want to maintain status quo. This is exemplified by the way the Uttarakhand government recently reacted to a document issued by a local district officer, which speaks about a government scheme that promotes interfaith and inter-caste marriages. It is a right-wing backlash to turn interfaith and inter-caste love marriages into something dirty.
Most of the interfaith marriages happen through the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The Act is being misused by the administration, particularly its clauses which speak of ‘no objection’ certificates from the families of both the boy and the girl. A notice period of 30 days is given. The notice of the proposed marriage pasted in public places.
There is nothing special about the Act. It does not provide any safety and security to the young couple seeking to get married. Lawyers use it to ‘arrange’ things. The cost is extracted from the young couple, which is ready to shed any amount to get things done.
The narrative opposing inter-faith marriages by BJP leaders is bound to have disastrous impact on ‘inter-caste’ couples, too. Caste is the one point they will never want to cross the border. Whenever such couples reportedly ‘run away’ from their places, cases are filed against ‘boys’ for ‘abducting’ the girl. False certificates are produced to suggest that the girl is a ‘minor’ in order to push the ‘abduction’ argument. If the things don’t “improve”, rape charges are pushed. All this is happening at a time when people have been found celebrating mob lynchings.
Young boys and girls are being killed by parents and relatives in the name of ‘threat to social order’. Ultimately, it is an all-out effort to ‘protect’ the social order of caste privileges. It is a strange order where everyone feels proud of being ‘above’ someone else. Caste hierarchy and its past is sought to be valorised and glorified to justify the existing social order.
Love Jihad has another specific characteristic: There is a huge outcry from those seeking to uphold purity of Hinduism when a Hindu woman marries a Muslim man, but this outcry evaporates in case a Muslim girl marries to Hindu boy. Ironically, in the latter case, it is the Muslim conservatives who seek to suggest that their community’s “izzat” is at stake.
There is a political motive behind Love Jihad. When Kareena Kapoor married Saif Ali Khan, it was dubbed as Love Jihad. On the other hand, in February 2019, RSS leader Ram Lal’s niece got married to a Muslim, yet it was blessed by all the top party leaders. BJP already has a number of leaders like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain, whose wives of Hindu. And, none has sought to question Dharmendra and Hema Malini, both BJP MPs, converting to Islam to get married! 
When Dr Ambedkar, Periyar and other leaders wanted inter-caste marriages to break the caste barrier, their aim was to build a new society
When Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Periyar and other leaders wanted inter-caste marriages to break the caste barrier, their aim was to build a new society. One must be proud of being a humanist or secular humanist in delinking oneself from the past, which seeks to confine one to one’s caste-regional-religious identity. Our birth should be considered an accident, as we do not decide but we are given a caste or a religious identity to define us. This religious identity then creates artificial barriers and vilifies others who are not ‘like us’.
One needs toto take into account how Hindus and Muslims bigotry feeds each other. In the Indian subcontinent, Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists carry on with their own propaganda against plurality and make the other side look like a threat to their basic existence. As and when Hindus and Muslims get rid of the clutches of religious fanatics, these forces will automatically die down.
In fact, one should be proud of having an affair beyond one’s religion or caste, or even nationality, instead of getting succumbed to the pressure of getting ‘legitimised’ by the ‘religious’ elite of one’s community. A secular couple should promote secular narratives for their children, instead of preaching that religion never preaches violence.
Most of the violence that we witness in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar are religion-based, as the majoritarian religious identity seeks to take political control of the state, and for that stories are sought to be woven in order to find a villain. The Indian Hindutva campaigners find it through narratives around Pakistan, Article 370, Ayodhya, Common Civil Code and Love Jihad. In our neighbouring countries they have other narratives on similar lines.
One should feel proud of Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s Constitution and its humanist values that seek to legitimise interfaith and inter-caste union. The constitutional morality and not religious values, where a ‘girl’s’ religious identity is considered a loser, ought to be considered supreme. In multicultural societies, we need to explore and build up new socio-cultural values so that it does not become a hunting ground for competing religious fundamentalists.
A new narrative of ‘humanist marriages’ or ‘constitutional marriages’ or ‘civil marriages’, based on civilised principles, ought to be promoted. Religious practices should not be allowed to come in the way of marriages. They should be allowed to be dedicated to secular laws and principles. Inter-caste or interfaith marriages can survive only when one has faith in the Constitution and modern humanist values of equality of partners.
The real threat to dominant religious values can emerge only when one challenges the narrative that these marriages are not mere marriages but ‘self-respect’ marriages, to quote Periyar. where a woman is an equal partner and does not lose her identity. It is important that ensure that marriages become a union of two individuals who are mature enough to know about their rights, and when it is not possible to live together, they have the right to legally dissociate amicably.
Meanwhile, it is relieving that a two judge bench of the Allahabad High Court, Justices Vivek Aggarwal and Pankaj Naqvi, have upheld the rights of two individuals to marry as per their choice. It has overturned a single bench judgment of 2014, which was becoming the basis for the law against Love Jihad. The 2014 judgment had suggested that conversion for the sake of ‘marriage’ was not acceptable.
The two High Court judges have overturned the single bench judgment calling it in bad law. They said, “To disregard the choice of a person who is of the age of majority would not only be antithetic to the freedom of choice of a grown-up individual but would also be a threat to the concept of unity in diversity.”
Indeed, the right to live with a person of his/her choice, irrespective of religious persuasion, is intrinsic to the right to life and personal liberty.
---
*Human rights defender

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