Protesters against “Jihad of love” start war on interfaith couples
Protesters against “Jihad of love” start war on interfaith couples
Justice comes to the rescue as right-wing governments attempt to ban interfaith marriages
September 20, 2021
As a number of states, led by the Bharatiya Janata party, pass laws banning interfaith marriages and interfaith couples face increasingly violent attacks from right-wing vigilantes, the courts and some NGOs come to the aid of couples who put love above all else. .
Ravinder Sharma, a boatman and tour guide in Yamuna Ghat, Delhi, met his wife Rani (formerly known as Noor) in 2013, when she came down from Mumbai with her family. After weeks of showing her nearby sites and hours spent together on the river, they fell in love and Sharma laughs as she recounts the story of Rani’s first proposal. They married in a good mood, but the next day everything changed.
“The day we got married, our life changed. When we got home, all of our things were gone, there wasn’t a single utensil left, and the power was off. There wasn’t even a bed so we had to sleep on the floor. The next day, the arguments started and during a fight with my older brother, five of my teeth were broken, ”says Sharma. India Media Group.
Although rare, with interfaith marriages accounting for only 3.1 pc of all marriages in Delhi in 2019, the frustrating history of Sharmas is certainly not unknown in India, the most controversial of which are usually Hindu-Muslim unions. Sharma says no one in his family supported him, and his brother’s wife, who worked in the Delhi Police Force, went out of her way to make their lives hell and continued even seven years later.
“No one acted like family, not even my mother. No one thought, ‘we should respect a new bride.’ We have continuously faced harassment from everyone in the community. They prevented me from finding work, called my wife Muslim insults, because they thought that no matter what, they had to make sure that the marriage would break down and that she would go back to where she was was coming. I told them that I could leave them but never her because marriage is not something that happens every day, ”recalls Sharma.
In recent times, hatred towards interfaith couples has visibly increased in India, with attacks, including fatal ones, against couples who dare to break down social barriers and decide to marry. Attacks and assailants are encouraged by passive policing, which often also acts against couples on bogus complaints of abduction or forced conversions, instead of shielding couples from threats and violence.
Although the younger generation seems poised to shed some of the older mores of Indian society, attitudes towards interfaith marriages appear to be hardening. A Pew Research Center survey in June 2021 found that 67 percent of Hindus and 80 percent of Muslims said it was very important to them that interfaith marriages of women belonging to their community be stopped. Christians and Buddhists, however, shared a very different opinion, with only 37 and 46%, respectively, opposing it.
The most common objections relate to marriages involving Hindu girls and Muslim boys, with those who oppose such unions claiming they are fighting the “jihad of love,” a conspiracy accusing Muslim men of trapping Hindu women. for the sole purpose of converting them to Islam.
“It’s not uncommon at all. My cousin sister got married to a Muslim against her parents’ wishes, and she quickly started wearing burqas and with a different name. When our family members objected, they left the house and never returned. I grew up with her and haven’t seen or been able to contact her for almost years. The laws should definitely be made stricter in some cases, ”said Priya Ghosh, a 53-year-old Delhi resident who follows the Hindu faith. India Media Group.
The Special Marriage Act, enacted in 1954, was intended in part to protect the right of Indian nationals to marry, regardless of their religion or faith. However, the law imposes a 30-day notice period for interfaith couples, which is increasingly misused as it privatizes the law and gives it to anyone outside the couple, including family members, neighbors and the police, the power to oppose. Recently, there are more and more reports of couples being forcibly arrested, most often in BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh.
“These people are crazy. They don’t understand that you can’t choose who you like. Why should others interfere with or care about someone’s personal life? I’m the one who got married, who has to live the rest of my life with my wife, ”says Sharma.
In recent years, the Special Marriage Act’s requirement for public notice of intention to marry has been militarized by vigilante groups that oppose such marriages, and has caused a severe harassment to many couples, some who received death threats or were forced to abandon their marriages in fear. These vigilantes were also reported to be setting up information-gathering networks, with information about these couples posted online and sometimes even provided by agents at marriage registration offices. For example, in July, an interfaith couple marrying in the UP Ballia district was reportedly harassed by members of the Hindutva Karni Sena group, who ended the marriage claiming it was a case of forced religious conversion and took them to the police station, where the Muslim man was arrested for kidnapping.
“I laugh at that phrase ‘love jihad’. Either there can be love or there can be jihad (war). Love is not war; it’s natural. How can this go together? They claim the woman was forcibly converted, but she was not the one who filed the complaint. It is others who get angry about intercast or interfaith relationships. It is an attempt by the state to terrorize people in a country where father, mother, brother all have the power to press charges or implicate someone on false accusations. Love does not see caste, religion or color. Love is love, ”said Sanjeev Sachdev, president of Love Commandos, an NGO that helps protect couples from harassment and honor killings. India Media Group.
Sadly, in their attempts to consolidate Hindu votes, many BJP-ruled states – such as Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, besides UP, have gone the extra mile to prevent interfaith marriages by passing laws banning such unions, all in the name of “protecting innocent women”.
But activists say these laws are in direct violation of the Indian Constitution which guarantees several fundamental freedoms to all, including the right to choose one’s partners or one’s faith. “Article 21 of the Indian Constitution says that everyone has the freedom to practice any religion they want. They make these laws that violate the Constitution. Several Supreme Court orders have made it the duty of government officials as well as the police to provide protection to every citizen, regardless of color and caste, but all of these laws violate this and the police are unsure whether to follow the orders of the Supreme Court. tribunal or their chief minister. We have to understand that during our struggle for independence, huge sacrifices were made by every community: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, and I am sure our judicial system will act to ensure that such laws do not remain. not in force, ”adds Sachdev.
The judiciary seems to be increasingly becoming the bulwark against self-defense groups as well as governments that pass laws that restrict basic human rights. In August, the Gujarat High Court suspended proposed amendments to a government-proposed law that would criminalize interfaith marriages, saying they were unconstitutional and the suspension would protect interfaith couples from harassment until the case. be settled by a court.
Remarkably, in Uttar Pradesh, which appears to be at the heart of attempts by the right to block interfaith marriages, the Allahabad High Court has also taken a stand to increase protection for interfaith couples. In January, as he heard a petition from an interfaith couple claiming that public notices increased social pressure on their choice to marry, the judge demanded that publication of the notices be optional in order to protect their right to freedom. private life. This is in stark contrast to the proposed changes which suggest a 60-day notice period – double the time for couples to be exposed to potential harassment. Last week, in another case involving an interfaith couple from Gorakhpur, the court made it clear that “no one, not even their parents, can object to their relationship.”
Gujarat’s decision has been hailed by several legal experts, who believe it is a positive step towards preventing a dangerous trend towards state intervention in private affairs, especially those involving are politically motivated.
“I don’t believe in this Hindu-Muslim divide. In my community in Mumbai we used to live together with families of all faiths and celebrate Eid and Diwali together which is how it should be. You cannot impose these restrictions on the love of people, and if things don’t change, the age-old prejudices will remain, ”says Rani, Sharma’s wife.
Fortunately for the few couples who still venture into interfaith marriages, there appears to be a growing group of individuals and organizations, especially NGOs such as Love Commandos and Maharashtra-based Right To Love, who have come together. joined in the battle to protect the right of these couples to privacy and liberty. With several states passing such laws, the ball would ultimately fall to the Supreme Court, which will have to settle this issue once and for all and ensure that constitutional guarantees become available to interfaith couples.