Opinions and Views
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Children of Mixed Parentage
by Asif Iqbal
“What would be the religion of your children”? asked my father when he realized my seriousness to marry a girl of different faith. He warned that “the kids will become teetar-bater” (mixture of two different birds). He meant that they will not have any specific identity. “We will see to it” was my answer as I had not thought about it then. The question is faced by most of the couple in inter- faith marriage. This question comes under the second set of questions generally being asked by the parents of most of the aspirants of inter-faith marriage. I am ranking it in the second set of questions because the 1st sets of questions are based on the socio-religious dynamics of such marriage. Faith of the children is not an issue for the aspirants for whom getting married is the vital concern of their life. Do we really need specific identity?
Moreover, ignorance and iconoclastic nature of youth delays their biases about most of the prevalent orthodox discriminatory socio-religious practices. Most of us have tendency of dealing with such situations on the sequence of their occurrence. It is certainly a crucial question for inter-faith marriages and therefore, several members of Dhanak (group of inter-faith couples) had lengthy discussions on the topic. Our brain storming has helped us in consenting that their children will be given choice of faiths to be followed after they attain maturity. The child will grow within the heterogeneity of faith and it will be helpful in developing his/her understanding about religious coexistence. Most of the couples prefer writing “Humanity” as the religion of their children in their birth certificates. Unfortunately humanity doesn’t come among the lists of religions in India and therefore the space is left blank. But they have to convince the birth registrar who otherwise will fill the religion of the newborn according to his/her inference of religion from the father’s name.
The present government of Kerela has taken an initiative to expose the children of schools to the above mentioned concept under the huge opposition from various right wing organizations. A book of class VII of SCERT has introduced a chapter on children of mixed parentage. The chapter talks about offering space to the child for selection of his/her faith after attaining maturity. The parents didn’t specify any religion or caste for their child. Opposition to introduction of such a faith is highly fanatic. Ironically the books talk about other faith (religions) in the country. Fear from introduction of new faith and losing in number game is their only concern and such baseless fear is being exercised through several socio-religious practices. Surprisingly the man made identities had taken over natural identity of human beings.
We have several historical references of social out-casting. Manusmriti has used Chandal for a child whose father is Avarna untouchables and mother is from top 3 Varnas of Varna system. 5-6 lakhs individuals from Cheeta – Kathat community based in Ajmar and Beawer of Rajasthan has evolved from the mixed parentage of Rajputs and Bhil-Meenas in the 12th century. Their ostricization had turned them into dacoits for ages. They still are struggling against the discrimination from the dominant castes and religions of the region. There might be several such unknown communities existing in India that evolved from the oppression of the dominant upper castes.
Fortunately, such communities have imbibed religious coexistence from their parents and elders. Such individuals and communities are rich in genes and culture. They are the source of cultural and religious dynamism. They are the living examples of religious coexistence. Their growth and existence could be a lesson for others unless they themselves get sucked into the larger identity politics. It is good to have such “teetar-baters” instead of having “pure” vultures and eagles. Such cultural and religious hybrids are very much needed in today’s world with growing divisive puritans.
Your Comments :
I found the write up by Asif on Children of mixed parentage something which echoes so many of our thoughts, apprehensions and also incidents from our past and present…my father asked me and Gouri (my hubby) exactly the same question when first i took him to aligarh (my hometown) to introduce my folks to him….and just like asif we were at that time in too much of a ” lets at least first manage to peacefully get married” mode to start worrying about the religion of our future offsprings.. .so my answer was something ranging from “dekha jayega” to a more defiant ” of course insaniyat, pehle toh insaan hoga” abba gave us one of his very polite but slightly “tum toh abhi immature ho to understand the exact dimensions of this question” look and looked away.
Now we have a one year old daughter Mansha and now this question does haunt us at times. its not like this question is now creating any kind of trouble in our immediate lives…just like us Mansha is also being exposed to a very mixed and heterogeneous culture since Gouri is a south Indian (hyderabadi) her diet already comprises of sambar, curd rice to chicken roti. She wore a pattu lehenga on jamashtami and her chata pati ka gharara is getting ready in alig for the oncoming Eid. The point is for all practical reasons she is enjoying and celebrating festivals on both the sides. As Asif says in his write up she is indeed growing within the heterogeneity of both the faiths and this will hopefully be helpful in developing her understanding about religious coexistence. We both are not VERY regular practicing Muslim or Hindu but we both make sure to expose her to the richness of both the cultures and customs as much as we can. But what worries us at times what to write in her birth certificate or at the time of her school admission..of course chances of her being labeled as a Hindu is pretty high due to fathers name…more than me my husband has a issue with that..we both feel as Asif also brings this point that the child should be given choice of faiths to be followed after she attains maturity. And moreover we are pretty comfortable with our daughter growing into a “Teetar Beetar” instead of some freaky obsessive religious fanatic.
Asif’s article on children of mixed parentage is very thought provoking. It makes one wonder about the power of discourse. How, just because of the manner in which we speak and think about religion, we have come to assume that our religious identities are somehow “natural” and make one individual different from another in some concrete way. That each person is born either a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh etc. is a belief that seems to be codified in our laws. It almost implies that religion is genetic and the basis of one’s “real” identity. Why else do we need to specify the religion of our children at the time of their birth? The law seems to be based on the idea that an individual’s religion is as fixed and real as one’s sex. It is so surprising considering that – unlike cultural and ritualistic practices – the laws are supposed to be based on reason .
The write up rightly points out that it is this idea of perceiving religion as one’s true identity that leads to the concern about the religion of a child that is yet to be born; that leads to the concern about decreasing and increasing numbers of people who we see as “our own” or as “others”; that leads to distrusting those whom we believe are different from us in some fundamental way. In fact the very idea that those children are “mixed” or “teetar-baters” is based on the idea that people from different religions are different species. I am in a “mixed” marriage and when I have children I would be lying if I specify that s/he is either a Hindu or a Muslim because I have no idea what religion (if any) that child is going to follow once s/he becomes old enough to know what religion is. And there won’t anything “mixed” about the child even if s/he decides to follow an amalgam of several religions because a belief doesn’t change the fact that s/he will be an off spring of two humans. Is it really that hard to see?
Nanak was born in Hindu family but when he was able to understand he refused to follow the practices further as he was not convinced with them, so I am of the opinion that we need not complicate further our’s as well as kid’s life and let the kid grow with one identity (what so ever) which the community / society can accept easily and make the conditions healthy and less complicated for kid’s growth… he/ she will be free to follow which ever sect / ideology once they are able to take such decision.
let’s say things are similar with mother tongue also. Is it literary the one which mother belonged to or the one in which the kid grew and understood this world.
It’s not only religion, its cast, its mother tongue, its nationality. .. many more to count…
Identity, rather identities are throwing new questions in the present day situations. following a religion or another is always been a personal as well as social matter or disclosure. slowly and gradually its is entering into a more complicated paradigm where identities are being homogenized from within and from outside. as we all agree that homogenisation is the basis of demonising any community or identity, following a faith or no faith at all (which is in my case) has a strong political connotation and disclosure. it is now moreover a statement where you align yourself or pretend to align with an identity which has some tags attached or choose to keep yourself away from that.
I hope i am not confusing the discussion. but i think the child will have to take all such decisions also before disclosing her/his identity, especially the religious identity. and such decisions will need a whole lot of understandings about the realities of her times. it is unfortunate but a reality.
Many years back when Suresh and I got married and even when we joined Dhanak, questions about what faith and surname our baby should have and how we will bring him up used to cause much confusion and unease.
Things have changed now…
It’s a scary world we live in and in the name of god, in the name of religion too much destruction is happening all over the world. Children of mixed parentage are also a minority…
I would just like to teach my 13 months old baby Nikhil to be a fearless, strong and thinking individual, who learns to be sensitive, accommodative and knows the importance and necessity of co-existence. To have the courage to fight labels, stereotypes, to stand up for what he believes in and not get pressurized to answer senseless silly and rigid queries regarding his identity.
As long as he is happy and comfortable he is free to choose any identity for himself-gender, religious, regional etc…
I don’t know much about Hinduism much myself and Suresh doesn’t know much about Christianity. ..we have left it to our respective parents to teach whatever they like…as individuals we are not too much into celebrating festivals either…we do whatever our parents like us to do…festivals are time to get together, have fun, clean the house and eat good food…
Yet I believe all that we do and say and whatever we choose to teach our kids has a deep impact and stays with the kid forever…my parents never sat me down and told me about Hinduism and never forced me to do anything…yet I chanted hanuman chaalisa with my dadi, learnt Veda mantra with my dadaji and went to mandir with my dadi and did havan at home with my family on all imp. occasions… it became an intrinsic part of me…I do not agree with all that I did, I don’t even do many of those things now…but it is a part of me, my childhood, my memories…. similarly Suresh attended Sunday school, went to church and all that. Even though he doesn’t practice Christianity. ..He cannot wish away his Christian upbringing… he may choose to revolt against it or choose not to follow it etc…but his childhood is a part of him.
It’s not so simple…to say we will teach one thing, one religion, give one religious identity and then let the kid decide when she becomes an adult…
Children are smart and not as helpless and confused as we think…they will learn in time that there are many religions in this world…and at times people do marry successfully. ..People of other religions… and therefore… their children cannot have just one religious identity…
We cannot give them just one religious identity coz that’s making them live in a false environment. ..If parents are of two religious identities then how can they have just one???
We may not tell them about our religions but we cannot keep them away form our religious identity in this complex and violent world we live in…
Yes there are no easy answers and no ready made solutions… because when we married a person not belonging to the religion we were born in…We did something unconventional, difficult and different… and we should not be afraid.
Speciality of Special Marriage Act
There goes a famous idiom in Hindi “Jab miya biwi razi tab kya karega Qazi” that stress upon the determination of a boy and a girl to get married. It means “no authority or power of world can stop two people from getting married if they are determined”. Ranu and I decided to test the seriousness of the idiom by solemnization of our marriage under Special Marriage Act. The decision was taken after 2 years of debating on pros and cons of inter-religious marriage and persuasion of respective parents. Our search for possibility of marriage without religious conversion had revealed us Special Marriage Act (SMA). We were very happy to learn about it. We went through the Act after purchasing a copy of the Bare Act and were ready to exercise our legal rights like any resilient youth of our country.
We visited the office of SDM, NOIDA, Sector – 3 for filling our forms for the solemnization of our marriage. On gauging our seriousness, commitment and understanding about the act, the clerical staff asked us to meet in person with the SDM. Generally, the young aspirants are dealt by the clerical staff and their experience with them is so frustrating that most of the times they give up their thought of getting married under the SMA. Our meeting with the SDM was an eye opener for us. It is wroth quoting him here, he said “you guys are doing a good thing but, I cannot approve it in my jurisdiction as it might become a law and order problem for me. But, I would be the first person to come and sign as one of the witnesses to your marriage, if you do it at some other place.” We immediately realized the “speciality” of the Special Marriage Act. Anyhow, we wanted to get married as per the secular provision under the act therefore, we decided trying our luck in the country’s capital. We went by a general perception that the administration of Delhi is efficient in issuing certificates.
I retrieved my old voter identity card of Western Delhi since I was staying there earlier. We dared to enquire about possibility of my marriage from the SDM’s office of the region. The clerical staff that did the screening of our case ruined our momentary happiness by refusing voters card as an address proof. To our surprise, they first accepted it as a valid proof of address because the aspiring boy was from Delhi and girl was from Aligarh . Revelation of our names resulted in refusal. They first presumed that the girl is Muslim as she is from Aligarh (presumably a Muslim dominated town). This was the second eye opener for us to learn that process gets expedited when the girl is from Muslim community. Thanks to our feudal culture. We were not yet ready to give up our plans to get married according to only secular form of marriage and hence, we made one more attempt in East Delhi . Somebody told me that things are a lot easier in the eastern part of Delhi and we were not ready to loose any hope. The babu (clerical staff) gave me a wrong form. On pointing at his mistake, I was told that, their office had run out of forms.
Each failure had added to our insecurities and mental trauma. Our frustration had finally led us to a lawyer after 1 year of optimism and self determination. Since I exhausted all my address proofs to be used for marriage therefore, we decided to use the provision of police verification under the Act. The SDM can order a police enquiry in case there is no address proof of the principal applicant. Ranu shifted to North Delhi and used her address proof as the prime applicant. Finally we managed to get our marriage solemnized under a secular act. Our test of the famous idiom mentioned above had made us realize that it holds its importance for those who are least bothered about the Qazi. But, in our case we were keen to get legal and secular entity to our alliance and hence the “Qazi” had a vital role for our alliance.
We sincerely hope that the above narration about our struggle for marriage should not act as a deterrent to the aspiring couples. We experienced a lengthy and frustrating process because we couldn’t persuade our respective parents to be part of our marriage under SMA and neither did we wanted them to be alarmed by learning about our marriage solemnization. It is not necessary that similar pillar to post situation is faced by each aspiring couple. Few Dhanak (group of inter-religious/caste couples) members were able to convince their parents for their marriage under SMA. But, unfortunately 80 percent of cases under right to choose, who decides to get married with or without persuasion of their parents face similar situation. The question remains, that how many people can avail the SMA and what change it can bring in the scenario of intolerance. Only few literate, aware, city based and economically independent couples can use it but the majority has to rely on conversion or alliance without marriage.
The situation also reflects upon the 2 crucial aspects associated with the implementation of SMA. Our society is not yet prepared to accept individual’s right to choose and especially inter-religious alliance is beyond its imagination. Such relation is not acceptable without conversion. Therefore, the aspiring couples get to see only successful cases with conversion or are encouraged for conversion of one of the aspirants by their advisors. Probably the wise advisors themselves don’t know the answers of questions related to religious coexistence in case of inter-religious alliance. Those who dare to explore the possibility of alliance without loosing individual’s identity by conversion has to face the beliefs and biases of the Qazis of our administrative system (Marriage Registrar/officials) like we did in our case. The aspirants are either forced to choose the easy way of conversion or they end up eloping to save their dear relationship.
Situation has become worse after involvement Sangh Parivar into a totally personal affair of two individuals. Earlier the so called “insult” related to “love marriage” was confined to couple of families but now the insult has become community specific (of Hindus) after the Hindu right wing forces started taking special interest in the subject. The worse example is of Babu Bajrangi from Gujarat who proudly claims his act of separating more than 2000 such couples. Few of them were picked and terminated during Gujarat genocide in 2002. It is being openly claimed by the Hindu hardliners that Muslim and Christian boys are spoiling Hindu girls and they will not let that happen. The media covered sensation of few cases of IRM and inter-caste marriage in the year 2007. The desperation grew high in Bhagwa Brigade and Marath Samaj of Indore , M.P. and they announced a cash reward of Rs.5000/- for Hindu boys who marry a Muslim or Christian community in April 2007. Surprisingly the Hindu hardliners like Praveen Togadia and Babu Bajrangi has missed the essence of love or probably they are against love. Such heartless people can hardly understand that a lovely relation like marriage cannot be a mission.
Their 2 nd burning concern is about ratio of Hindu girls marrying out of their faith is higher that the girls from other 2 major faiths in India . We think that the Hindu girls are fortunate that their community has offered a platform of opportunities for their empowerment and enlightenment. They are lucky to take a vital decision of their life. But, it is unfortunate and condemnable if such independence is curbed by conversion before their marriage. We hope that the Sangh Parivar is open for marriage of Hindu girls without conversion. We are yet to hear such a demand from them instead of no marriage of Hindu girls out of their faith. Regrettably, the Sangh is getting inspired by regressive practices and traditions in Muslim community against women and is keen on Talibanization of women in Hindu community too. We look ahead for days when girls/women can choose man of their liking or compatibility without any fear and compulsion. It will be too mean of anybody to control women with false morals and pride associated with different faiths. Attempts to regress women against their right to choose and non-conversion for marriage sake should be checked at all cost.
Similarly, the Muslim rightist who does not legitimize marriage without conversion & Nikah has started taking written consent of girl for their conversion. Saying Kalma of Shahadat by girl of other faith was enough for Nikah earlier. Islam permits marriage between “Ehel-a-Kitab”. Followers of the holy books; Koran (Muslims), Old Testaments (Jews) and Bible (Christians) are called Ehel-a-Kitab. Muslim boys can Nikah (marry) girl(s) from Jew or Christian community without any conversion. Surprisingly the presence of “But-Parast” (idol worshipers and Hindus in Indian scenario) was not considered worthy by the Prophet. It is for sure that cases of IRMs are on rise and the religious leaders of the community are alarmed about it. 2 crucial Fatwas were issued by Islamic clerics on consecutive days in relation to inter-faith marriages. 1 st was issued from Dar-ul-uloom, Deoband on 3 rd July 2008 . The head of fatwa unit, Mufti Ehsan Kazmi, said conversion for marriage sake should not be accepted. The fatwa was against recognition of any such Nikah. The 2 nd Fatwa was issued on 4 th July by Maulana Ahmed Jameed Ilyasi, President of All India Organisations of Imams of Mosques. It rejected the previous fatwa stating such fatwas will create tension in society and within the community. He suggested Dar-ul-uloom to stay out of such issues as there are very few cases of conversions for sake of marriage. The latter one brought some solace to those who are ready to sacrifice their identity for their valuable relationship.
Unfortunately, no religion offers a scope of marriage without conversion. In majority of the cases the acceptance to the marriage is given on precondition of religious conversion of the girl. The guardians of religions are so scared from handful of cases of IRM that they are actively campaigning against it. They are ready to stoop to any level to stop such alliances or else they fear, it may set wrong precedence in the society. Since ages the struggle against unconditional love is on because love breaks boundaries. This natural feeling in humans had challenged all socio-religious norms since the very beginning and will keep challenging them eternally. Religions have to evolve with the changing social dynamics or else their basic massage of love and peace will be overshadowed by hatred and subjugation. No human will be delighted to witness growth in “honour (or shameful) killings”. Till then the constitutional provision of SMA is the only hope for couples who believe that love is over and above any man made identity and such alliances are best examples of religious coexistence.
We suggest few amendments in the SMA that can make it friendlier to its users. We feel that the 2 conditions need reconsideration in view of hostility associated with them. They are; display of Notice of Intent to Marry at a conspicuous place at Marriage Registrar office and sending of notice to the respective families of the aspiring couples by registered post.
The intent to marry notice is displayed for a period of one month with all major details and photographs. The applicants are under persistent threat from religious fanatic groups like Sangh, Jamaat etc. Such self styled guardians of religion take special pain to notice the details of couples and intimating or pressurizing the parents of the applicants. Sending of registered notice to parents for their intimation is again questionable if the applicants are eligible for the marriage under SMA. We can hardly understand that why there is such a suspicion or attempts of control if two adults intent to get married? The argument in favour of such practice is about ruling out fraud cases. We believe such fraudulent can be punished according to the provisions under the act. Even a conventionally arranged marriage with great care can also not rule out fraudulent cases and we often hear about them. Such exceptions are dealt within the legal framework of marital laws. Amendments in rules related to above 2 conditions will certainly improve the marriage solemnization process and will save the couples from loosing their faith.
Coming back to my personal experience, we will not hesitate to accept that the whole period of 1-2 years of our struggle had helped us in developing common perspective about various issues related to inter-religious alliance. Our emotional testing had acted as a strong cohesive force that has made our marriage successful. Getting married to a person of choice is no doubt an achievement but, sustenance of such beautiful relationship till end is equally challenging. Dealing together with challenges proves helpful in evolution of admirable alliances.
Thanks for these write ups and advancing debate on these highly significant issues. The article gives a good insight into the tribulations that a couple aspiring to get married under a secular law has to go through. I had a couple of observations and one request that I would like to share.
My first observation is regarding the concern of Hindu fundamentalists about more Hindu girls getting married to Muslim and Christian guys. You rightly point out that a girl’s ability to choose her partner is a sign of progress and should be encouraged rather than curbed in all communities. And although it makes no sense in keeping a tab on which “community” has more women in inter-religious marriages, I wonder how accurate it is to buy in this assertion of the Hindu right. It reinforces the stereotyping of Muslim as more fundamentalist than others in India . Although there are no studies on the issue but in my personal experience I do not see a pattern and know as many Muslim as Hindu girls who have married outside their religion. In most cases of course they face opposition from their family as do Hindu girls as well as those from other religions. I wonder if because of the publicity that the cases involving Hindu girls and Muslim men gets these days and because the Hindu right has been, successfully, able to turn this private affair into a political issue that leads to the perception that it is only Hindu girls who get marry outside their community. Again to reiterate my point, I am not suggesting that there is a need to tabulate how many girls from which community are marrying outside their community as that only extends the notion that women are the property of a community and the other community scores by bringing them to “their side”. I am just concerned about buying into the stereotype about the Muslim community as more regressive and guarding of “their women” as compared to other communities. I think it is equally prevalent in all communities and approval to interreligious marriages is as much an exception in one community as the other.
The other point I wanted to make is regarding the discussion on what religious laws say about marrying into other religions. I wonder if getting into that discussion will serve any purpose. I believe that our main focus should be on pointing out the availability or need of secular provisions so that people have a choice. Interpreting what a religion says or doesn’t say will lead us into a very different territory and we may end up tied in knots.
And now for the request. As you know my dissertation is related to these issues, can you please forward me the media articles on the fatwa as well as the one that mentions award for Hindu men in April 2007.
Its interesting to know your story. It reminds me of our situation, the ordeal we had to go through each and every process related to the Special Marriage Act.
Right from starting with the meeting with SDM, chasing two objection letters as my parents were just not ready to accept the relationship. And ofcourse the lawyer who made an utter fool of me and my husband, where we did all the work and chasing around and he got paid for it.
The journey from the time of filing the papers for the marriage till the time you actually get married under this act has been really chaotic. The one month or so in which you have to wait for the date to be given by the registrar is really tough especially in cases where you don’t have the consent of your parents. We were blackmailed by our lawyer, the witnesses, but we were brave enough to face the consequences and handled them with ease.
But i would say everything has been worthwhile, touch wood i have got a wonderful husband and family. Infact even my parents are also very fond of my husband now. We recently had a daughter who is now abt 5 months old.
Its really amusing to hear when people say that you were really brave to take a decision like this. I just say that i was very sure of my relationship and that made things easier for us.
the article was a true eye opener, especially for beginners / strugglers like me…
of course i had never thought it would be easy, but had surely not realised that it would be so difficult ! how sad is the fact, that in our own country, we can’t make use of the laws that our own Constitution makes. It seems sometimes the laws are made not to be implemented or to help, but to discourage or disorient people who dare to do something unconventional. ..
but really Glad to read that it was a happy end for both of you, though i agree with you that due to the following hindrances, many may not be able to stand up to all the pressure and may either break down, or just adopt another’s religion for the sake, which i feel is a mockery of both the religions involved.
I remember writing you a query on the same, months ago when i was as ignorant about this beautiful law as so many of the youngsters today are.
Was just wondering if, as a Group, we should make an effort to popularise this law…let people know…educate them..so that Many more people can make use of it, and Religions can be respected in their sanctity .
Yes, there are many things which still need to be corrected about the law (especially the one about informing parents, that’s funny is you ask me ;), but till then, at least lets make sure people around us know that such a law exits, which lets you marry the person you love, irrespective of the religion, and yet not forces you to abandon yours.
Becoz of my association with Dhanak, Now i know..and my Friends know about this through me….similarly, if each one of us spreads awareness, to our little circles, in a focused way, am sure many more lives can be touched…
Religious Identities in Schools
By Asif Iqbal
In UK , a 14 years Sikh girl viz. Sarika Watkins Singh and her family won a legal battle of wearing Kadaa in a school in July 2008. Sikh men are still campaigning for Pagdi (Turban) rights at various institutes. Similarly, few Muslims in France are struggling to get Hijab rights for Muslim girls in schools. On retrospection of my school days, I found that my classmates with their religious symbols like Joodi, Kadaa, Tilak and Kalawa had never made me insecure. But after reading a couple of articles about the on going struggle of religious minorities in France and UK I think it is worth giving attention to the presence of religious identities and practices in educational institutes.
Such religious identifies in India are not considered a major issue because of the prevalent religious heterogeneity. We claim about the secularity of our country through religious tolerance unlike France . Both the countries are claiming their secularity by different practices. In France and few other countries, secularism in schools mean banning of all religious symbols whereas, in India it is about giving no attention to pupil wearing religious identities. Indian educational institutes are being governed by the provisions under article 28 of our constitution that talks about ” Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions “. If we look into the debates of Constituent Assembly of India held on 7 th December 1948 during the adoption of the article, we find 3 major arguments;
- there should be no bar for religious instructions but nobody should be compelled to attend them.
- there should be no religious instruction at all in the education institutes wholly maintained by state funds.
- there should be no religious instructions in education institutes wholly or partly the maintained by state funds.
It was resolved that, no religious instruction will be imparted in the education institutes wholly maintained by state funds. Usage of general tax for religious instruction with no participation from minority communities, heterogeneity of pupils’ faith and potential rise of religious conflicts due to ideologies based on religious dissension and denominational biases among the prevailing religions were 3 reasons in support of above decision. But, religious instruction was permitted in the institutes that are partly funded by the state with the condition of no compulsion for pupil from other faith. Few members of the Constituent Assembly that were against any religious instructions in education institutes wholly or partly the maintained by state funds were also in favour of complete ban of religious identifies but the proposed amendment was negated. Surprisingly, there was no recommendation for provision for religious instruction of pupil in minority in the partly funded educational institutes.
People associated with different religions & castes have evolved few obvious symbols to be worn by its followers. Such symbols are also visible in the attires of people from different regions. Unlike religious identifies, the regional identifies are getting dissolved in the cosmopolitan identity. But, religious identities persist and are on rise. It is present in the families that place the religious identity above the cosmopolitan identity or with those who want to keep both the identities simultaneously.
To my understanding neither the ban nor tolerance can deal with the magnitude of situation. Ban again is creating an identity of secularism in France . The concern is not about presence of different faiths and ideologies but about their coexistence without any biases and discrimination. Such coexistence can only be ensured by regular religious discourses in the society and educational institutes. The state must ensure unbiased practices by its 3 pillars of democracy or else it will lead to the insecurity of religious communities. Such insecurities will ultimately be reflected in the form of religious symbols and identifies by such insecure communities. We must never forget that women of all such unsecured communities will be the worst sufferers.
Schools help in building the personality of a child. It helps in preaching and practicing of socio-economic and gender equity lessons in pupil. Its syllabus does talk about religious harmony but in very brief. Such text book lessons on different religions in India should be dealt in length to develop an understanding about coexistence of different faiths in children at different levels. The prevalent faith based conflicts in the society should not be left only to be resolved in students’ families or community. Generally the vital issues related to faith based conflict are hushed away by statements like “these are deeds of few people with political interests” or “all religions are equal”. But, several questions remain unresolved in inquisitive young minds that are left unresolved or are left to be resolved by divisive forces. The teachers generally are scared to talk on the issue due to their limited political knowledge or personal religious biases and faith. This cannot be considered a secular approach.
Considering the drastic decline in religious tolerance in India , it is essential for us to initiate a separate course on different religions in world. The course must cover the preaching and practices of all faiths (including atheism and other less prevalent faiths) highlighting the common emphasis to universal value of humanity and coexistence. It is not necessary to recruit separate teachers for the subject. The course must help in identification of prevalent inter and intra faith based practices in our country. The emphasis should on highlighting the coexistence of heterogeneous faiths and on common preaching of all the faiths of universal peace and humanity. The idea is to offer an alternative and inclusive thought about different faiths so that the pupils are not left to be exposed to a biased interpretation of his/her faith. To ensure the participation, the subject should have compulsory marking for students of all schools irrespective of its nature of state support to the schools.
Two-three quick responses – first on religious plurality vs identity based tolerance/intoleran ce. our schools or the schooling system has never be tolerant to religious identities, other than of majority communities. from my early schooling days i have felt alienated from a number of activities of the schools just like many others who do not hail from the majority community. all the prayers i had to sing were of a particular community, inauguration of all the major events at school used to be done with Mangalacharan or some other religious activity with i was not religiously aware off. religious festivals were celebrated in the school without a single celebration of any festival of religious minorities. and i was student of a government school. my sister used to study in a Christian missionary school and she also had to pray ‘father, son and the holy spirit’ and to celebrate Xmas. i differ to accept these as religious tolerance. though i used to participate in all the cultural activities at the community level including holika dahan and sarasvati puja and dawat puja, chhath and without any coercion, i never felt comfortable while participating in such events in the school where i was forced to.
second, i think introduction of religions in the school course may lead to further marginalisation of minority religious identity. today when our syllabus is said to be secular, there are people who tend to distort the lesson plans with known political purposes. inclusion of religion studies may further boost their efforts. and the article says that the teachers should be well trained. will they be well trained pundits-mullahs? and what will these trained people will teach – the mythologies with little rational value and ill-fed folklores promoting brute violence and intolerance.
rather i believe that schooling should be secular, not of ‘sarva dharm sambhav’ philosophy.
Finding Peace in Inter-faith Marriage
Rajeswari K and D John Chelladurai
India Peace Centre,
C K Naidu Road,
Civil Lines, Nagpur – 440 001
Rajeswari and John together has written this introspection. However for convenience, it is in John’s narrative.
Prelude: A senior friend of us was chairing a symposium on Intermarriage.The reformist speakers fervently spoke on the merits of intermarriage and proclaimed one after another how their marriages were inter-caste or inter-religious.The Chairperson, a ripe 70 years old man declared,“ Iam intermarried.” Surprised by this aged person’s daring feat even 50 years back, everyone sharpened their ears to listen which were the two communities merged in his marriage. ‘I am a man and my wife a women, he said coolly.’
While his declaration brought hearty laugh, it was a stunning message indeed. We are created into two gender as male and female only to knit into one family, give purpose to our life and preserve and promote the life of the species. Perhaps two is too many for nature that it did not create any further division. But humanity has created such a complicated social system that the man and woman can not meet at will. Historians may justify the emergence of castes, religions, ethnicity, language, geopolitical affinity, economic strata etc., as affirmations of socio-cultural identities. However, the same history amply tells us how humanity is divided by these identities.
We may look at it this way also. Male is different physiologically from female. Creation has a purpose in making this difference within a species. Diversity should meet for the species to exist forever. We humans assigned for ourselves too many social diversities and declared them incompatible, thereby negated the spirit of Creation.
One may appreciate the purpose of ‘match making’ that verifies socio, cultural, faith commonalities and helps the couple start their life in rhythm and avoid primary contradictions. However, in today’s marriages castes and religions are more of constraints than caution more of ‘communal’ than cultural. Tired of these impediments quite a few youngsters today have got ready to break the barrier. John and Rajee were two such individuals.
Rajeswari and I got married on Feb 09, 1998. If you go for ‘match making’ between we two, you would find the odds in absolute majority. While Rajee is from Tanjore district, the cultural basin of Tamil Nadu, I am from Tirunelveli, a district notoriously known for its knife wielding (Palayamkottai, the district headquarter, strangely is called as the Oxford of South India). I am pucca rural brought up; Rajee was born and brought up in Mumbai. I’m Dravidian black but Rajee in the estimate of my people is the fairest. Our religions and Caste are poles apart. As if these differences are not sufficient, we got to know after marriage, our tastes too are different. One is mad after coffee and the other does not drink even; one is a sworn vegetarian and the other is a non-vegetarian gourmet. One likes bland food another strong spicy one. Rajee wants fan in full swing even in winter where as I like to sleep in still air. She is a meticulous housekeeper; I am still learning the art from her. I stop here. Had we left it to the matchmakers, the providential design would not have been matrimonialized. (That we are married now, makes our marriage a Providential destiny, isn’t it?)
One may wonder what makes our (Rajee and my) relationship joyous. Probably the respect we hold for each other. Rajee has a number of virtues for which I revere her the most.
My mother and two sisters were not in favour of this marriage. City bred Hindu girl would not suit to our Christian life, they argued. My persuasion had no effect. ‘I would not stop your marriage, neither would I bless’ my mother resolved. My father and all other siblings and the entire family of Rajee together solemnized our marriage. My Professor Dr Pushparajan (Head of the Deptt of Interreligious relagions, M K University) conducted the marriage with a custom designed interfaith marriage ritual which attracted both the conservative families equally.
On the third day after the marriage Rajee and I went to my native, my parent’s place. My brother, youngest in the family was getting married the next day. The sensation of marriage was very much in the air. When we reached home, my mother came out, kissed me in the cheek and hugged me. She didn’t even glanced at Rajee who had appeared for the first time in her life. She just turned her back and quietly went inside. There was no hatred, neither affinity for Rajee. Though mortally hurt, Rajee appeared cool. She deftly handled her emotion and declined to judge my mother by this act of her. She was talking to my siblings quite friendly. After a while when my mother was busy in the kitchen, Rajee went there and joined with her in the kitchen work. My mother gave her onions to peel. With that the barrier too was peeled out. They started talking, and the talk has never ended. Without exaggeration, today, of all the daughters-in-law, Rajee is the closest one to my mother.
Rajee’s sense of humor is exceptional that instantly brought my niece and nephews to her band; her reading of world affairs and contemporary writings gave my brothers and sisters a good companion to chat with. My father who is hard of hearing, had very few people to interact with him. He found in her a great listener. My mother who has been a brave matriarch guiding a large family through four tumultuous decades (now it is five), had commanded great respect among the members of the family and relatives. She was approached for counseling, advice, consolation, religious guidance, material support and so on. We thought she had everything and was beyond all of us. However it was Rajee who found that my mother needed a friend too. My mother and Rajee would speak for hours on end about things we never heard my mother speak with others. She enjoys that friendship. The integration is so thick, that my mother started recognizing Rajee’s own spiritual worth. Two instances I would distinctly remember. Of all children, my parents chose us to stay with in the Commune, though Rajee had her own faith practices that are considered a negation by my mother. Once, in the Commune, I saw my mother suggesting Rajee how the pooja utensils ought to be maintained and giving her tips to keep them spic and span. Though they do not believe in medical treatment, when Rajee was admitted to hospital for thymectomy, my mother and all sisters went on fasting prayer.
If Rajee knows how to knit a family (and our commune too) then I realize, she understands the purpose of the Creator too. She is running a good run.
It is not that she is all-good. She is known for her lightening intemperance. Ask me, I am a witness to it. However showers of loving-kindness promptly follow it. If the intemperance is a reminder of her mundaneness, the quick restoration of love is an evidence to her spiritual growth. She has great number of friends in every place we have stayed. And I have heard young boys say, “I wish the families of my brothers were like your’s.” I take it a witness to the success of marriage.
One day we had a couple as our guests. The young lady was so ecstatic about how they were uni-focally Christians ever since their conversion. She was narrating how they grew in their faith day by day. During the conversation that lady asked Rajee, ‘did you not consider conversion at the time of Marriage?’ ‘Are you not happy,’ Rajee responded, ‘that there was no conversion in our marriage?’ ‘Would you relish John getting converted to my faith because he was married to me?’ Unable to contain her annoyance, that lady commented, ‘I don’t like families traveling on two boats.’ Respecting her sentiments, we did not say any further. Whether she realized it or not, she herself recognized Hinduism equally as a ‘boat’.
On another occasion a Christian friend observed ‘John, how is it in your house you have a number of Pictures of Hindu Gods and not a single picture of Christ?’ I recollected what Bill Leight, an AVP Alternative to Violence Project) facilitator from the States commented on one of the pictures we have. It’s a beautiful drawing of baby Krishna cozily sitting on the lap of mother Yeshoda. He wondered, Wow! What a great depiction of Indian mother Mary and Child Jesus.’ Then I told that friend, “I personally believe in formless God and I don’t keep images. If all the images (pictures) here represent Rajee’s faith, the remaining empty spaces, which are over 90 per cent of the wall, represent my faith.” Rajee was quick to intervene, ‘I believe in formless God too; empty space too represent my faith.’
Many friends ask me how do we (Rajee and I) find compatibility between our faiths. They are conspicuously different.
As Rajee and I grew closer, we found, despite all differences, there is an over boding likeness between we two. We are bound by a common belief, that there is a purpose for this life that spans beyond one’s life. And we can realize that purpose through our life practices.
Both Rajee and I believe that there is only one Absolute God. If God is Almighty, Omniscience, Omnipotent, Matchless, the One without a second, then the God visualized by Christians and Hindus must be, and is one and the same. So, when a Christian worships the Lord Father, and a Hindu worships the Supreme Power, it is the same God that is worshiped. We cannot dispute this fact without challenging the Absolute nature of our God. There is nothing like my God and your God, (more than one God makes God less than Absolute). There is only one God that is our God. We may for convenience say, ‘my perception of God, and your perception of God’
Hinduism-Islam-Christianity are separated from each other in the same manner Catholicism-Baptism-Presbyterianism are, only by theology and rituals.
However a Christian is free to ask ‘whether Hindu way of visualizing God is right,’ as much as a Hindu is free to ask, ‘whether Christian way of looking at God is right.’ What makes our religion worthy? Is it our knowledge of God, is it our understanding of Creation and the Creator, is it our awareness of the Commandments, or the good-news in our possession? Paul the Apostle writes to the Corinthians (I Cor. Ch 13) not knowledge, not tongues, not prophesies, but Charity, Love that sustains us. ‘.now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity(love).’
Christ said, I am the Way the Truth and Life. The Truth is God and the Way is Cross (Love). Christ led an exemplary life of Love for us to adopt it as our Way. I as a Christian am sternly guided by this message.
Rajee, says, that’s absolutely the message of Hinduism. The Closest attribute of God the Eternal Reality is Satya. And Ahimsa, the Path of Love is Paramodharma (the supreme Religion). Charity in Sanathana Dharma is supreme Dharm.
My scriptural reading has humbled me to realize that I am a fallible being who is blessed with only a short mushroom like life span. God the Eternal Boundless All-encompassing Spirit is indefinitely beyond my comprehension. God in His/Her fullness is Complete. My understanding of God is infinitely small. So I prefer to term my understanding of God as ‘my perspective of God.’ Because I cannot understand God in His/Her Fullness, I would also not contradict if someone claims to perceive God in a manner that is different from mine. It can be true. Perhaps, the commandment “Judge Not” was given to us in this connotation.
I’ll however take two references to verify the veracity of the other person’s ‘Perception of God.’ First is, his/her faith in God and the second is how the person practices it. Though we are ephemeral in life span and miniscule in understanding of God, we can still have complete faith. It is not Understanding of God but the Faith that sustains us – that moves mountain. If we acknowledge our understanding of Eternal God is miniscule/partial, then, logically there isn’t much difference between miniscule understanding of God and misunderstanding of God and no-understanding of God. Therefore, faith gets a great significance. If a person has complete faith in God as s/he perceives it, I would honour that faith.
Second, faith can move mountain only when it is consistent with the purpose of God.
The Purpose: Creation and Existence are a priori to each other. Existence is the purpose of Creation. (If existence were not the purpose of creation, then God would not have created us in the first instance).
To realize that purpose, as Christians believe, God gave us commandments. Because we may be confounded by too many commandments, Christ shrunk the whole into two commandments. First, There is only one God; second, Love thy neighbour as thyself (Mat 22: 36-39) All other Commandments are encapsulated within these two. The practice of these Commandments makes life meaningful. This is easier said than done.
Existence needs compatible attitude. Love as an attitude is compatible to Life. Love promotes life and Existence (as against hatred and violence leading to death and extinction). Absolute Love therefore is the religion, as Jesus Christ, Gauthama Buddha and Mahavir demonstrated. Hence, if one’s religion moulds one to ‘love thy enemy’, to overcome the attitude of ‘enmity’ ‘antagonism’ then that religion is in relation to the Purpose of God, the Creator.
When a person is smitten by that love, s/he ceases to see barrier, declines to judge. For him/her the prostitute in the neighbourhood is one’s sibling, the poor man an uncle, and constantly sees the divine in everyone. I am ‘I’ and you are another ‘I’, an extension of myself. That is the life of Cross. Philosophically saying it is Ahom Brahmasmi. Rajee calls it a life based on Ahimsa. Both Rajee and I realize that our respective religions have guided us to towards the spirituality of seeing Christ in everyone and receive them with dignity and care. She draws a parallel message from the Veda. It says, Yetha Pindae Tatha Brahmandae ‘as is the microcosm so is the macrocosm and vice versa.’
The Prasad of Hindus is often a contention among their Christian neighbors. Rajee often says that though offering prasad, which is considered a divine sustenance, to the near and dear ones is an experience of sharing the blessings of God, she would rather prefer not to hurt their (Christian) sentiment by offering prasad to them. For me, she says, keeping the neighbours in comfort and ease is more important a spirituality than performing what I believe is a divine deed(offering Prasad). It is ‘I-would-rather-go-to-hell-than-hurting-my-neighbour’ sort of attitude.
I however think the otherway. Guided by the way Christ has shown, I believe, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” When a Hindu offers Prasad (a holy sacrament) to me I consider it as a gesture of his/her love for me. Declining to accept it is tantamount to denying his/her fellowship. ‘If love thy neighbour / enemy’ (others / people holding opposite views) is a commandment to me, “allowing the neighbour to love me’ is equally an implied commandment. His offering prasad to me is his way of ‘love thy neighbour.’ Is not refusing the other person’s prasad amounts to denying him a chance to practice the commandment ‘love thy neighbour’? If I have faith in my spiritual strength then I need not be scared of matters polluting me. For ‘God is the God of Sabath too.’ For me prasad is more of a social gesture – affection and care than a religious endorsement. I would rather prefer to have my neighbour than pursuing a lonely religiosity. Christ did not intend lonely religiosity.
Lord Buddha gave a wonderful reflection on this. Buddhist monks are expected to live on alms. He said whatever offered is to be consumed. That is how nonvegetarianism has been an accepted food practice in Buddhism which holds non-killing (ahimsa) as one of it’s Mahavratas. There are two vital messages in the directive. One is, offering (alms given) is a symbol of love, accept it unconditional. Second, we have shared destiny. If meat eating is wrong and your neighbour is a meat eater, then you by virtue of being an integral part of the neighbourhood receive a share of that sin, no matter whether you take it or not. Better allow him to love you (offer his food) establish a bond, reciprocate with him with divine sustenance and collectively grow into higher plane of spirituality. There are two ways of rescuing a person plunging in water. Jump into water and bring him out or stay out at a safe distance and throw a rope to drag him out. Buddhism adopts the first way. If my spouse/baby falls into a well I would dive into it to save them.
But what about rituals and idol worship? My wife has lots of idols of different forms of God. For her they are images that help her concentrate on God. They are the gates through which her mind and soul enter into the voyage of spirituality. She says ‘they are only gates not the destiny, I am clear of it’. If you see the gate and think it is the palace, it is your folly. I know the limitation of a gate as well as the tremendous utility of it for a beginner in spirituality. By the by, she asks, do you realize that devoid of the inner (implied) message of it even the cross is an idol? Since you understand that the Cross is a window through which fresh breeze of the holy Spirit permeates into the soul of the viewer/worshiper, cross does not occur to be an idol. Whereas, since a Christian does not realize that there is inner expanse in the Hindu Idols, s/he tends to see them as superstitious idols. There is no shying away from the fact that quite a few Hindu believers worship the idol as an End by itself (may be their innocent/ignorant faith is recognized by the Almighty God, for there is an intense quest for God in such worship too). We do see similar proportion of superstition among those Christians who believe in keeping the Cross below the pillow to ward off bad dreams, or to tie it in the neck to keep bad spirit away. It is not uncommon among Christians to reverentially touch the Cross and swab it in the eyes.
Is not Cross a gate through which we start our journey into the world of spirituality? Then, why do we have trouble understanding the gate when it comes in the form of Hindu idols? So, it is our inability to recognize the inner potency of the Cross, and our ignorant clinging to it that makes it an Idol. So is the case with Hindu murthis. If you can see the potency, it is no more a superstitious idol, if you can’t, it is not the fault of the gate.
Thus Rajee gets into the inner expanse of spirituality through the ‘east gate’ and I through the ‘west gate’ and travel together in the netherworld and find our Creator who is surprisingly One and the Same.
On looking back, I understand our marriage is a joy by and large. We laugh together, work (Cook) and dine together, travel together… When bored, we fight with each other too. But the end of the day it is always one of mutual comfort and accord.
Thwarting a union
A division bench of the Rajasthan high court denies love marriage
BY ASIF IQBAL
A bench comprising Justices Dalip Singh and Sajjan Singh Kothari of the Rajasthan high court has stated that marriages based on the right to choose, more generally known as love marriages, are examples of “lust and greed”! The remark was one of a few abhorrent statements of the bench on October 21, 2011 in its ruling in a habeas corpus petition filed by Buddha Ram Meena, 34, whose 18-year-old wife, Maina Bhatt, was forcibly taken back by her parents after they heard about the marriage. The man was forced to file a habeas corpus petition after his wife was taken away.
The division bench hearing habeas corpus petition No. 151/2011 ( Buddha Ram Meena vs State of Rajasthan & Ors ) rejected the petition on the grounds that the marriage performed according to Arya Samaj rites between the petitioner and his wife had sidestepped a few essential rules titled ‘ Arya Samajon Mein Vivah Ke Niyam ‘ issued by the Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha in Delhi. But it is the observations of the bench delivering the verdict that I find especially disturbing.
The judges’ remarks, reported by PTI and published in various newspapers on October 23, 2011 , are worthy of closer examination. The reports quoted the court as saying among other things that : “The pious purpose of the Arya Samaj mission has been lost sight at (sic) by local units in the state and they are becoming tool (sic) for pacification of ‘greed and lust’ for girl and boy, and once it is over the marriage lands in courts resulting in irreversible breakdowns”. And that: “It takes them one hour to solemnise a marriage between an 18-year-old girl and a 38 or 40-year-old gentleman, which leaves scars forever in the life of parents who bring up their children with great passion and aspirations. Such marriages in lust and greed by young blood cannot be said to be correct” .
Such insensitive statements by the distinguished judges can only reinforce the prevailing mindset of those who wish to confine society in its strong caste-based compartments.
Being a member of Dhanak, a group that has been working on issues concerning couples in interfaith and inter-caste relationships, for the past eight years, I would like to put forth the reasons why most aspiring couples opt for religious solemnisation of marriages rather than areligious solemnisation of marriages under the Special Marriage Act 1954. It is important to mention that any unmarried, sane, consenting adults (where the bridegroom is over 21 years of age and the bride is over 18 and who are unrelated within the degrees of prohibited relationship), irrespective of faith or caste, can get married under the Special Marriage Act. The couple from Rajasthan, who come from an inter-caste background, could have done so too. So why did they decide to have a religious marriage ceremony? It was almost certainly because they wanted to make sure their parents did not receive any intimation about their marriage through the official notice – as would any couple who anticipated threats to their life and liberty.
When a couple belonging to different faiths or castes decides to get married in the face of stiff sociopolitical opposition, their first choice is invariably to exercise their constitutional rights to marriage. However, in the majority of such cases, they are discouraged from doing so and misled by the advocates and officials in the marriage officer’s office. If the couple belongs to different castes, they are never ever advised by the advocates to opt for marriage under the Special Marriage Act. This is also true for couples of different faiths, as they are also urged towards a religious solemnisation of marriage based on their faith or religious beliefs, and subsequent registration of the marriage on the basis of a marriage certificate received from the officiating priest. There are two main reasons for such advice. One is the personal faith- and caste-based biases of the advocates and the concerned officials and the other is the discouraging rules and practices associated with the implementation of the Special Marriage Act.
Barring Delhi , all other states follow the dangerous practice of sending a copy of the notice of intended marriage to the permanent addresses of the marrying couples. Thanks to the initiatives of the Delhi government and a landmark judgement by Justice S. Ravindra Bhat of the Delhi high court in April 2009, the practice of sending notices to the homes of couples desirous of solemnising their marriage under the Special Marriage Act was curbed. However, it has not been completely discontinued, as the officials fear the wrath of the parents of marrying couples.
The administrations in Ghaziabad , Noida and Gurgaon in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are not even willing to bear the expenses of dispatching notices and they insist that couples provide pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes beforehand. Couples also have to publish an advertisement of their proposed marriage in a leading newspaper and submit a copy of the published advertisement to the marriage officer’s office. In Gurgaon, the concerned deputy commissioner’s office has taken the pains to add a column for specifying the applicants’ religion in the ‘Intent to Marry’ form and an additional point about the citizenship of the applicants in the declaration form. I wonder why religion should be mentioned at all in the one legally recognised marriage procedure intended to be outside the realms of faith or caste.
The Gurgaon office also requires that couples provide envelopes bearing the names and designations of the marriage officers in districts where the applicants permanently reside. I can only speculate on the amount of homework a couple has to do before they file their application. A marriage cannot be solemnised under the Special Marriage Act without receipt of a verification report from the concerned tehsildar; and the report will not, of course, be issued as a matter of routine. The couple has to take great pains to ensure that the report is in fact released by the tehsildar’s office.
Looking at just a few of the requirements essential for marriage under the Special Marriage Act, one can safely say that no couple would choose to go through the traumatic experience on its own. So those couples who are still determined to get married under the Special Marriage Act are forced to engage an advocate and shell out a large sum of money for his/her fees. Unfortunately, the majority of couples cannot afford the services of an advocate and thus, confronted by various hostile and complex sociopolitical pressures, they are forced to opt for a religious form of marriage. Here too they are misguided and cheated by the concerned persons for economic and faith-based gains, as it happened in the case of the aforementioned couple from Rajasthan.
The judges’ presumption that all such marriages end in divorce reveals a limited understanding of the complexities of married life for couples who challenge the conventional form of marriage. By branding these marriages as “tools for pacification of greed and lust”, the judges have literally abused the essential emotional component in any form of love marriage – the love itself. Surprisingly, the judges have been sympathetic towards the emotions and the suffering of the parents but have completely overlooked the similar feelings of the children vis-à-vis their parents. Here I would like to state that no couple willingly seeks the absence of blessings from their dear parents and respectable elders at the time of their marriage. They all wish to cherish the love, care and support they have received from their parents throughout their lives – those marrying for love (under the Special Marriage Act or otherwise) do so just as much as couples who marry under any other form of marriage.
I believe the court should also have taken cognisance of the existing hostility of officials in the administrative bodies responsible for the solemnisation and registration of areligious marriages. I sincerely hope that the administrations responsible for solemnisation/registration of such marriages take serious note of this situation and consider it an absolute failure of their performance. Unless the various governments and groups working on religious/caste coexistence take the initiative in easing the process of marriage solemnisation/registration, we cannot build a society free from religious and casteist hegemonic stereotypes.
(Asif Iqbal is a founder member of Dhanak, a group working on issues concerning couples in interfaith and inter-caste relationships.)
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