Our country, India is admired across the globe for its rich culture and traditions. “Unity in Diversity” is what they call us for having such a vast multiplicity in language, food, folk dance, clothes, cultures and traditions. It is the land of peace and prosperity and shares the oldest history of great civilization of the world. Ours is a secular country which ensures that the nation does not follow any religion and people belonging to any religion like the Hindus, the Islam, the Sikhs, the Christians can live in harmony with each other. It is rightly said that Hindu and Muslims are two eyes of the beautiful bride India. Weakness of any one of the eye would eventually reduce the beauty of the bride.
Man is by nature, a social animal. Society is something that precedes the individual. Weddings in India vary according to the region, the religion, the community and personal choices of the bride and groom. In India, men and women who have attained the age of majority, have the right to marry without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion. Indian statute book allows inter faith marriages under the Special Marriage Act enacted in 1954.
Inter faith marriage, also called mixed marriage is a marriage between spouses having different religion. It is becoming very popular in the west and other countries as well. Mixed marriages does impact the society to an extent. Sociologists believe that inter faith marriages help in the socio-cultural assimilation of communities and facilitate better integrity into the society. In my opinion, there are both pros and cons when it comes to mixed marriages. Inter faith marriages are proof of religious tolerance. Both the spouses get to know the religion of their partner in and out. When two people of different faiths get married, their thoughts, perspective and mindset changes, acceptance and tolerance level increases towards people of other religions. Their thoughts are broadened, which affects their children in a positive way and parenting can be done in a much better way. Since Couples belong to different religions, their outlook towards everything in life is broader and more realistic. Living in the same house with two different religions means more scope for adjustments.
While it would be an interesting experience to be a part of two religions, it could become troublesome in some cases and we need to consider the challenges that lie ahead. Inter faith marriages are often contentious in the Indian society, especially when it involves a Hindu and a Muslim. Disapproval of parents, in laws and social criticism can have a very negative impact on the mental health of the couple and their children.
For more than 10 years, some Hindu groups in India have conjured the specter of a “love jihad” among Muslim men. Also called Romeo jihad, it is developed by proponents of Hindutva purporting that Muslim men target Hindu women for conversion to Islam. Under the leadership of BJP, the state of Uttar Pradesh- home to India’s largest Muslim population- passed a law in November 2020 that imposes punishment against conversion as part of marriage. The Uttar Pradesh prohibition of unlawful religion conversion ordinance came on November 24, 2020. According to me, it was a way to popularize the idea that Muslim men lure Hindu women through unfair means to ultimately increase the Muslim population in India.
Let’s have a detailed case study over love jihad. Balraj Dungar, who is the state convener of Bajrang Dal believes that Jihadi people practice black magic to lure out women. The reason that love jihad is a problem, he says is, “If a Hindu woman marries into a Hindu household, she will give birth to two children. On the other hand, in Muslim household, she will give birth to ten children to increase the overall Muslim population of India”. Balraj Dungar believes that it is very important for them to have workers in every block and village to save Hindu’s from becoming a minority. He opines that Hindu girls are innocent and in their teenage, they can be easily influenced by Muslim men.
On 24 August, 2017, the Supreme Court of India declared the right to privacy as a fundamental right protected under the Indian Constitution. A nine- judge bench in the case of Puttuswamy vs. union of India declared the same. The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21.
I feel love jihad law is truly a hindrance to our right to privacy. Choosing our life partner should solely be our decision without any restriction and influence. It is a brazen attempt to legislate on something very private- choice of partner. If the constitution provides us with the right to privacy, then we can definitely expect to enjoy it without any hindrance.
For the intellectual, moral and spiritual development of the citizens of India, they enjoy certain rights which we call Fundamental rights, enshrined in part III of the Indian Constitution. The right to marriage is a part of the right to life under article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Right to privacy has been declared as a fundamental right. Therefore, I strongly believe that love jihad law are a backlash to India’s own progress.
According to me, India needs more and more inter- faith marriages, and law needs to facilitate that. It is an act of the Parliament of India with provisions for civil marriage for people of India. India follows a rigid structure of caste system and inter-religion marriage is still considered a taboo in the country. I feel inter- religion marriages are the only means of completely eradicating the religion barrier in India. The religion factor is like a halt to the development and growth of India.
In today’s rapid advancement, Indian society too has changed to a certain extent with change in time and era. Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities of our country have shown a tremendous growth in inter- religion marriages. The Special Marriage act, 1954 has proved to be beneficial for the NRIs as well. It is basically the legislation formed to give validity to specific marriages. With more advancement, globalization and increase in education facilities, there has been a great change in the views of people on inter- faith marriages.
I would like to end on the note that our constitution has given us the fundamental right of equality, right of life and those conferred to couples marrying under the Special Marriages Act as well. So, it is the duty of each one of us to take up initiatives to promote what is right and stand against any injustice that we see around us.
Author- Siddharth Anand (Amity University, Patna)