Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hindu-Muslim marriages - No 'love jihad', but couples fighting against all odds

Contrary to what the proponents of the Love Jihad theory say, Hindu-Muslim marriages do not always involve conversions. Here, couples, some of whom have battled violent families and social ostracism, share stories of the triumph of love.
Brutalised for making a choice

Kavita, then an MPhil student in Delhi, was kept under house arrest for nine months. Her family members used to beat her almost every day, she says. There were days when she could hardly move. On several occasions, it occurred to her that Akhtar Ali, a research fellow at Delhi University, whom she was dating and wanted to marry, had moved on in life. In the meanwhile, Akhtar was preparing to rescue Kavita legally. Asif Iqbal of Dhanak, an NGO, which has intervened in around 500 inter-faith marriages, suggested that the couple marry under the Special Marriages Act (SMA).
In January this year, based on a writ petition filed by Akhtar, a two-judge bench of the Delhi High court told Kavita that she could choose to go either with her family or with Akhtar. She chose Akhtar. In April, the two got married under the SMA. Since then, they have been living in north Delhi’s Sant Nagar area. Akhtar says he is a Communist and that the religion of his partner is not an issue for him or for members of his family. His parents visit the couple every two months. Kavita’s parents are yet to establish any communication with them.
“While there has been an upsurge of such marriages, the social pressure continues to be the same as it was decades ago,” says Asif Iqbal, who believes that the outcry about the supposed Love Jihad discounts the possibility that the men — Iqbal facilitates all inter-faith marriages regardless of whether the man is a Hindu or a Muslim — could be genuinely in love with their partners. As Akhtar clearly does. 
Kavita is now trying to lead a normal life without her parents and siblings — she has four brothers, all of whom participated in  the daily torture sessions. “I attempted suicide twice during that period,” Kavita says.
— Danish Raza
Uttar Pradesh 
‘My mother keeps crying’
“My wife, Samreen, was quite apprehensive about this interview. You know the situation these days. Love Jihad is a burning issue. It is difficult to trust anyone,” Gopal tells me as we talk in a two-room flat in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The couple, who have been married for four years, is afraid. Samreen, who is from Moradabad, and Gopal, who is from Shimla, met as students at Meerut University. They decided to get married after a three-year courtship. As both their families are conservative, Samreen and Gopal were aware that they would face much opposition.
Gopal informed his family about his marriage three years ago. Since then, his father has stopped talking to him. Samreen only told her parents about her marriage a fortnight ago. “My mother cannot stop crying. I keep telling her that she should not end up harming herself. She says the same to me,” says the  software engineer.
They faced a legal tangle when a Delhi lawyer charged them `20,000 assuring them that their marriage would be registered under the Special Marriages Act (SMA). He then started discouraging them from using the SMA as the pre-registration process involved putting a notice in court inviting objections. Finally, they married under the Hindu Marriages Act. Now, through Dhanak, an NGO which facilitates inter-faith marriages, the couple plans to get their marriage registered under the SMA. Samreen is now worried about her relatives and neighbours putting pressure on her family. “Take any inter- faith marriage... you find that more than the family, it is society that has issues with it,” says Gopal.

— Danish Raza

Delhi‘My family snapped all ties with me’
Thirty years ago, when two Banaras Hindu University (BHU) students — Munna Lal Verma and Razia Kazmi — got married, they believed that things would change in the decades to come and that society would become receptive to inter-religious marriages. They were wrong. “It all looks the same. If at all, things have changed for the worse,” says Verma, 55, a teacher at a government school who lives in Rohini, West Delhi, with his wife and two children, Aman (21) and Ekta (28).
“We have not given the children surnames as they are associated with various religions,” said Kazmi, 54, a housewife. The couple became acquainted while they were pursuing their Master’s degree at BHU and were hostellers when they got married. “We escaped trouble because we told our families about our marriage four months after the event,” says Razia.
“They were unhappy for obvious reasons but could not do much about it.” She adds that, at that time, fellow students and teachers at BHU were very supportive. However, Razia’s family could not come to terms with her decision. “Only my elder sister remained in touch and she passed away five years ago,” she says.
— Danish Raza

Kerala‘I got threatening  calls’
Two years ago, Prashant, who was studying engineering, eloped with a classmate. The couple was disowned by both their families. “After we eloped, Sharifa’s (name changed) parents filed a habeus corpus in the Kerala High Court. Fearing arrest, I was forced to take a bail. We had spent enough time in the police station and in court. To add to our problems, I also got threatening calls from some fundamentalist outfits,” says Prashant, who reveals that neither he nor his wife  has changed their religion.
“Today, there is no need to do that. We will take a decision when such a need arises,” he says adding that both of them have suffered for the choices that they have made.
Sharifa’s parents only came around once she became pregnant. However, she is still not allowed to  attend some family functions. “When my grandmother died, I was not allowed to stay for long at the house. Members of my family had no problems but some mahal (local mosque) committee members objected to my presence saying it would set a bad precedent in the community,” she says.
Prashant says he tries to be extra supportive as his wife cannot really turn to her family.
“We never interfere in one another’s beliefs or customs. In case we have any differences, we know we have to settle it between ourselves,” he says.
— Ramesh Babu
BangaloreThe much publicised wedding.. read more: