Following is a statement endorsed by women activists, intellectuals and advocates, in their individual capacity and representing very many organizations, released at two press conferences held in Delhi and Mumbai on 28th August 2014.
Every year, hundreds of young men and women fall in love in India. They defy their parents, caste and religious considerations and traditions. Many of them elope and get married; some others also give in to family pressures and fall back into traditionally more acceptable roles. The bollywood film industry thrives on such stories. We have laughed and cried with these couples on screens. The Supreme Court of India has repeatedly come to the protection and aid of just such couples.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Lata Singh vs. State of U.P. ((2006) 5 SCC 475), observed and directed that: “This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major he or she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter, but they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter- religious marriage. We, therefore, direct that the administration/police authorities throughout the country will see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by any one nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and anyone who gives such threats or harasses or commits acts of violence either himself or at his instigation, is taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police against such persons and further stern action is taken against such persons as provided by law. We sometimes hear of `honour’ killings of such persons who undergo inter-caste or inter-religious marriage of their own free will. There is nothing honorable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishment. Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism”.
In Arumugam Servai vs. State of Tamil Nadu [reported in (2011) 6 SCC 405], the Supreme Court strongly deprecated the practice of khap/katta panchayats taking law into their own hands and indulging in offensive activities which endanger the personal lives of the persons marrying according to their choice.
Law commission has even suggested a bill titled “Prohibition of Interference with Matrimonial Alliances In The name of Honour and Tradition Bill.
The word Jihad is being linked with the natural and selfless feeling called LOVE. A new term viz. “Love Jihad” has been coined by the Sangh to use it as their latest hate tool to polarize the two communities and spread falsehood and hatred. They are trying to propagate a myth that all such interfaith marriages where the male is a Muslim are malicious and are solemnized with single objective of religious conversion and increasing the population of Muslims by producing innumerable children. Similarly, the orthodox Muslims are not ready to accept any interfaith marriage without nikah of a non-Muslim.
We are quite alarmed at the way the right wing is using ‘Love Jihad’ to polarize people and spread hatred between communities.
The word Love Jihad must be a creation of an evil genius and it has come to be used to further demonize the Muslim community. The propaganda has been that some Muslim organizations are funding Muslim youth, to lure the non Muslim girls, to marry them and to increase the Muslim population. The rumor is being spread that youth are given money to buy motorbike, mobile etc and lure the non Muslim girls.
In India the word began to be used in coastal Karnataka, Mangalore couple of years ago, and in parts of Kerala. It was Sri Ram Sene founded by RSS trained Swayam Sevak, Pramod Mutalik, which started attack on Hindu girl-Muslim boy couples. The marriages of such combinations started being looked at with suspicion and if parents were opposed to the marriage, Sri Ram Sene would help to take the matter to the court also. The pretext was that the girl has been forced to marry the Muslim boy.
Over a period of time, from being just a mechanism to control the lives of Hindu girls, a tool to ensure that girls don’t have the right to choose their own life partners, this phrase has been used to instigate violence. Most of the pretexts of communal violence are cooked up, gradually manufactured. This term ‘Love Jihad’ by now is being used as a dangerous weapon. Lot of messages on whatsApp and face book are flying and relating the phenomenon as an international conspiracy of the Muslims.Communal politics, communal violence all over used women’s bodies as the site of contestation and community honor. Women’s sexuality is sought to be controlled as they are seen as the repository of culture, values, faith and honour.
This Raksha Bandhan day (August 2014) hordes of RSS volunteers spread in different parts of Western UP, tying Rakhi (sacred thread, traditionally tied by sister on brothers wrist) to the people and warning them of the threat of the Muslim youth wooing away their ‘girls’ for love jihad. ‘Muslim youth teasing and luring Hindu girls’ has been made the central part of propaganda in Western UP currently.
Sangh is also trying to divert the fact that organised targeting and rape of minority women has happened and happens in communal attacks – Gujarat, Kandhamal & Muzaffarnagar are glaring examples. And this is also another way to control the sexuality of women.
Kerala High Court in 2009 and Karnataka High Court in 2010, asked police to investigate, love -jihad. In both cases police said there was no such organised mission by Muslim boys.
The BJP’s new rhetoric focusing on a communal twist to crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh is not borne out by cold facts. Data accessed by NDTV shows that in western Uttar Pradesh, where vociferous campaigns have highlighted the alleged abuse of Hindu women by Muslim men, women have been assaulted by men from their own community in most rape cases this year. Out of 334 rape cases in 9 districts of Uttar Pradesh in 25 cases Muslims men were accused and Hindu girls were victims, in 23 cases Hindu men were accused and Muslim women were victims, in 96 cases Muslim men were accused and Muslim women were victims and in 109 cases Hindu men were accused and Hindu women were victims.
Such campaigns against inter-religion, inter-caste marriages are not only against the spirit of a diverse and plural society they also aim to control women’s sexuality and polarise the society along communal lines for electoral and political purposes.
Shall we leave the word LOVE to be redefined by those who have not experienced love in true sense?
The reality is that thousands of couples across the country are defying both the Hindu right wing and the conservative Muslim groups and are doing both inter-religious and inter-caste marriages. We believe that Inter caste and inter-religious marriages will make for a united and strong India in future.
We would like to appeal to all those who believe that, love is natural and not a mission, those who value love, gender equality, peace and humanity above the man-made differences of faith, caste, region, sex, language etc. to join us to voice against all such attempts of building an exclusive society by the communal forces.
Vrinda Grover (Laywer and Activist), Jagmati Sangwan (AIDWA), Annie Raja (NFIW), Manisha Bhalla (Journalist and Researcher), Teesta Setalvad (Social activist), Shabman Hashmi (ANHAD), Neilofer Bhagwat (Lawyer), Chayankiya Shah (AKHM), Vahida (WARG), Sonia Gill (AIDWA) and Dr. Kranti Jejurkar (NFIW).