The year was 1950, and India was still reeling from the cultural upheaval that came with the Partition. Prassan and his family, like many Hindu-Punjabi families, had fled what was now Pakistan and immigrated to Delhi post-Independence. Yet several years later, safe in their new home with no fear of religious persecution, heated conversations about religion once again arose – Prassan had fallen in love with a Muslim woman at his college.
Nothing could dissuade the two star-crossed lovers – they wanted to get married.
Unsurprisingly, their relatives, neighbours, and society at large were horrified. Even the most forward-thinking families of that time couldn’t imagine interfaith marriages at a time when communal tensions were running dangerously high in the country.
Reactions from their friends and family ranged from subtle taunts and backhanded wishes of good luck to unadulterated vitriol- it was a clear blight upon their pious and ‘pure’ bloodlines.
After several months of heated arguments, negotiations, and ultimatums, the couple finally tied the knot. Should religious terms and conditions be applied to love?
The stigma around interfaith and inter-caste marriages presents itself as a societal rule never to be flouted, lest you and your family become outcasts in a country where your community is your identity. Should you ignore these erstwhile rules, your chances at a ‘settled and secure’ future become drastically slimmer.
Fast-forward almost 70 years into the future, and the situation feels just as hopeless as it did in 1950. In 2017, a Hindu girl named Hadiya converted to Islam and married into a Muslim household. Her parents dragged the couple to the Kerala High Court, blaming ‘Love Jihad’ for brainwashing and forcibly converting their daughter.
‘Love Jihad’ has become a popular term to address the ‘adulteration’ of religions. It alleges that on the pretext of love, Muslim men target women from non-Muslim communities for the less-than-romantic purpose of conversion. This far-fetched fear is directed towards every interfaith union; after all, who would willingly give up their faith for something as unsubstantial as love?
Any woman who chooses to marry a man of her liking, but from a different religion is shunned and becomes a popular target for gossip and insults at every gathering. The man too is vilified and reduced to a social pariah. The couple is left to fend for themselves, bereft of any support system. Elopements may have the element of surprise on their side, but also the very real threat of death- honour killings are seen as a last-ditch effort to protect the family image. Moreover, the patriarchal notion of a woman’s honour being synonymous with her family’s honour dooms these young brides– women constitute 97% of honour killing victims in India.
I am no religious scholar and nor can I comment on what the Gita, the Quran, or the Bible advocates on interfaith marriage. But I do know that every religion mentions love and fraternity as its primary cornerstones.
Are we really proud followers of religion if the same religion denies someone a chance at love and happiness? Do our customs give us the right to condemn what is, at the end of the day, an act of courage? Is heinous violence against two adults, whose only crime was wanting to grow old in each other’s arms, justified?
Simply put, love has no religion.
Written by Oishik Roy for MTTN
Edited by Mihika Antonia Dean for MTTN
Featured image by Akshita Monga
Artwork by The Hindu