- غيتا بندی
- BBC Delhi
2 hours ago
Love and marriage with someone outside the sect and religion is condemned and rejected. A new project was launched, via Instagram, to celebrate marriages that have broken religious, sectarian, ethnic and sexual “restrictions and barriers.”
Interfaith and inter-caste marriage has always been a subject of discontent in conservative Indian families, but in recent years, talk of such marriages has become more and more controversial. And Hindu women’s marriage to Muslim men remains the most reprehensible of all.
This deep chasm was clearly highlighted last month, when a jewelry brand was forced to pull an ad for it after facing a backlash on social media because the ad was showing a couple; Muslim and Hindu.
“It is love Willis Jihad “
The advertisement showed arrangements for a “Baby Shower” party, featuring a Hindu mother and her husband’s Muslim family.
And “Baby Shower” is a party to welcome the new baby, which takes place weeks or a few months before the birth, as the mother sends a list of her requests necessary for the next baby to be attended by the invitees who are usually family members and friends very close to the mother.
The “Tanshaq” brand owned by “Tatas” – one of the largest Indian companies – launched its new group under the name “Ectfam”, which means “Union” in Hindi.
The concept of “unity in diversity” was supposed to be celebrated but ended up backlashing altogether. The announcement exposed the divisions that existed in Indian society.
Militant Hindu groups said the ad promotes “jihad of love,” an anti-Islamic term that indicates that Muslim men prey on Hindu women to lure and marry them for the sole purpose of converting to Islam.
Militants on social media have called for a boycott of the brand, placing it at the forefront of Twitter’s hashtags. The company said in a statement that it had withdrawn the ad out of concern for the safety of its employees.
After two weeks of disagreement over the ad, journalist couple Samar Hallernkar and Priya Ramani and their journalist friend Nilofer Venkatraman launched the “Love in India Project” on Instagram, describing it as “love and cooperation between different religions and classes in these hate-filled times.”
Hallernkar told the BBC that they had been “thinking about the project for a year or more” and that the controversy over the announcement of “Tanshaq” made them feel it was time to launch the project immediately.
“We were shocked and disturbed by the fake story about interfaith love and marriage,” he told me.
“There is a narrative that there are other motives that are more sinister, and that love is being used as a weapon. But we did not know anyone who was thinking that way, or had any motive other than love for the sake of marriage.”
With the Indian Love Project, he says, “We only provide a platform where people can publish their stories.”
Since launching the project on October 28, its first story, which began with Venkatraman’s mother, about her Persian mother Bakhtwar Master, and her Hindu father S Venkatraman, the site has published a new story every day.
The response, Hallernkar says, was overwhelming. “We are struggling to cope. We listen every day to people who want to tell their story or the stories of their fathers and grandfathers. It also shows that marriages between people of different religion and ethnicity are not a new situation. Rather, they have been and continue to happen over time.”
“But it is more important to talk about it now than ever,” he adds.
“As hate is being made, it is important to tell these love stories and show how widespread and persistent they are, and that they are not just passing whims.”
In India, more than 90 percent of marriages are done in the traditional manner i.e. arranged marriage. Families rarely look beyond religion or sect when marrying off their sons and daughters. In India, data shows, that only about 5% of marriages are between different castes and interfaith marriages are much rarer – one study estimated it to be just over 2.2%.
Those who choose to marry outside these boundaries often face violence and even murder.
It is the “hate story” that the India Love Project seeks to counter through telling the personal stories that readers often describe as “warm and intriguing”.
These stories tell the stories of husbands and wives who believe that love does not recognize the limits set by the human being.
Ruba, a Brahman Hindu, writes about her mother’s first reaction when she told her that she was planning to marry a Muslim named Radhi Abdi.
“He will repeat the word divorce three times and expel you,” said her mother, who was worried about the ease of divorce in Islam, which is currently prohibited in India.
She wrote, “But, as soon as my parents met Radi and realized that he was a wonderful person, their fears vanished,” describing them as “relatively open”.
Now, it’s been thirty years since Ruba and Rady got married, and they have two adult children. The family celebrates both Eid al-Adha and the Hindu holiday of Diwali every year.
Journalist TM Viraraghav wrote about his marriage to Salma, saying that religion in their home was not as important as “rice curry and mutton biryani”.
“I’m still a vegetarian, and she enjoys eating lamb, and our love is our baby Aynch, who gets the best of both worlds.
“Ainesh is Hindu or Muslim depending on what is being cooked.”
Tanweer Ijaz, a Muslim married to a Hindu woman named Venita Sharma, wrote in his post about the story of naming their daughter as Coho.
The spouses were asked whether it was a Hindu or a Muslim name? What is the religion that their daughter will follow when she grows up? He replied, “It seems that our Hindu-Muslim marriage can be a model for secularism, contrary to people’s expectations.”
“They are amazed and almost frustrated that our love should be called love and not the love of jihad.”
The Instagram account also features stories of other interfaith and interfaith marriages.
Maria Mangil, a non-vegetarian Catholic from a liberal family in Kerala, married Sandeep Jane, a vegan from North India from a conservative family.
Maria writes about the “many challenges” they faced during their 22 years of marriage but is convinced that by marrying him, she did the right thing.
I wrote, “How do you turn away from love?”
“I felt his delicate feeling, his sweet demeanor, his intellectual compatibility, and his great affection for me. I could not abandon him just because he prays to another god and speaks a different language.”
Stories like these make you feel better about the world and India, Hallarnkar says.
“These are beautiful stories of countless cases in India; people follow many different paths of love. It is a testament to what is going on in India on the ground.”
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