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Indian Press ( 4 Nov 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Press On Marriage Equality, Jamia Millia Islamia, Gilgit-Baltistan And Inter-Faith Marriage: New Age Islam's Selection, 4 November 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Desk

4 November 2020

•  Marriage Equality Is A Constitutional Right, Do Not Deny It To Queer People

By Ruth Vanita

• Jamia Millia Islamia Was Born As An Act Of Repudiation Of The British Raj. Celebrate Its Legacy

By Salman Khurshid

• At Centenary, Jamia Millia Islamia Stands As A Symbol Of Inclusive, Secular Education

By Arvind Kumar

• Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan Plays The Role Of Supplicant To Chinese Expansion | Analysis

By Shishir Gupta

• Ordinary Indians Are Standing Up For Inter-Faith Love As It Lives In Our Cultural Memory

By Pradip Kumar Datta

• Allahabad HC Order On Conversions For Marriage Omits Vital Context

By Shruti Narayan

• Free Speech Is A Basic Right That Empowers Marginalised Lives

By Rajshree Chandra

• Does Imran Khan’s Gilgit-Baltistan Vow Mean Pakistan Has Accepted India’s Article 370 Move?

By Jyoti Malhotra

• Uncivil Proposal: On Laws To Curb 'Love Jihad'

The Hindu Editorial

• Stop Attacking Interfaith Marriages

The Hindustan Times Editorial

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Marriage Equality Is A Constitutional Right, Do Not Deny It To Queer People

By Ruth Vanita

November 4, 2020

 

In most countries, the demand for marriage equality has come not from LGBT movement leaders but ordinary people.

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Recently, three couples (two male, one female) have filed petitions, two in the Delhi High Court, and one in the Kerala High Court, arguing that the state’s refusal to recognise their marriages violates their constitutional rights. The first couple that I know of who tried to register their marriage were Vinoda Adkewar and Rekha Chaudhary in Maharashtra in 1993. Still earlier, in 1987, Leela Namdeo and Urmila Srivastava, married by religious rites in Bhopal. Even earlier, in 1980, Lalithambika and Mallika in Kerala, tried to drown themselves, with their hands tied together.

In my book, Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriages in Modern India (2005), I examined hundreds of cases of such young women (and a few men), almost all from non-English speaking, lower-income backgrounds, who got married by religious rituals or committed joint suicide or both. They are from all over India and include Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Dalits, tribals, fisherwomen, agricultural workers, students, construction workers. Most of them had never heard words like “lesbian” or “gay”. Such weddings and suicides continue today. Those who commit suicide often write notes, asking to be buried or cremated together and saying that they will be married in the next life.

The solicitor-general of India was recently quoted as saying that same-sex marriage is against “Indian values.” The question is: Are these young women and men Indians or not?

In many cases, families violently separated the couples, often driving them to suicide. But several families, after initial disapproval, accepted the partnerships and celebrated the weddings. In 2001, two nurses, Jaya and Tanuja, got married in Bihar. At the same Hindu ceremony, Jaya’s sister married a man, and Jaya’s family participated, along with 200 guests. But the registrar of marriages refused to register the marriage. In 2006, Bodo tribals of Simlaguri, Assam, asked MLA candidates to provide legal rights to Thingring and Roinathi, a daily-wage labourer and a domestic help, who got married in a temple in 1999. Are these families and communities not Indians?

Male-female couples whose families disapprove of their relationships also marry by religious rites and some commit suicide. It is precisely because Indians disagree about values that the Special Marriage Act exists. It allows couples whose marriage may be disapproved of for any reason (inter-religion, inter-caste, different income groups) to obtain the legal rights of marriage.

I have interviewed Hindu priests and swamis, who performed same-sex weddings (one as early as 1993). They told me that the spirit (atma) has no gender and marriage is a union of spirits; and that when people get inexplicably attached despite social disapproval, this is due to a bond from a former birth. The 11th-century Sanskrit text, the Kathasaritsagara, provides the same explanation for cross-class and cross-caste couples who want to marry.

In most countries, the demand for marriage equality has come not from LGBT movement leaders but ordinary people. In the US, the first couple who got their marriage registered were Jack Baker and Michael McConnell in 1971. They have now been together for 50 years. When lawsuits were filed in the US to obtain marriage rights, many LGBT movement activists disapproved. The demand came from ordinary couples.

Most male-female married couples take for granted that the day after they marry, they can open a joint account, make health and funeral-related decisions for each other, and inherit each other’s property. Two women or two men who are married by religious rites or in a foreign country cannot do these things. When an Indian man marries a foreign woman, she immediately gets the right to apply for a PIO card, which allows her to permanently live and work in India. But when he legally marries a foreign man in another country, say, Taiwan, his husband remains a legal stranger to him and can only get a tourist visa to stay a maximum of six months.

India has finally joined the democracies that have decriminalised same-sex relationships. It is now time to join the many democracies which recognise the right of a citizen to marry anyone she chooses. Until this happens, we have a strange situation where a couple is legally married in, say, England, but when they come to India, they are single. What should they state about themselves in a visa form — single or married? If they write “single” they are being forced to lie.

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Vanita is a novelist and scholar.

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/marriage-rights-india-same-sex-couples-6929246/

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Jamia Millia Islamia Was Born As An Act Of Repudiation Of The British Raj. Celebrate Its Legacy

By Salman Khurshid

November 4, 2020

 

Jamia Millia Islamia

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A century for Jamia Millia Islamia and somewhere people are discovering that it is not just another educational institution, certainly more than what the police action of mid-December 2019 made it appear. While several of its current students and alumni are in jail, charged with worse than treason, and the Delhi High Court ploughs through arguments about the sanctity of the university campus, it is an apt moment to recollect that the university shall forever be a lasting tribute to freedom fighters. Of course, it is sad that the zeal for remaining unconquered should today be received as contempt for the current generation of patriots and their slogans of azaadi. The ruthless assault on students in the library was not just an act of desperation caused by cynicism about democracy but also a public repudiation of the legacy and heritage of Independence.

Lest we forget, Jamia was born in 1920 as an act of repudiation of the British Raj and the universities under its mandate. Starting from a mosque in Aligarh, the small band of dreamers persuaded by Gandhiji, Hakim Ajmal Khan and the Ali brothers put up at a rented accommodation in Karol Bagh before setting up camp on the banks of the Yamuna. There was little money, but no lack of determination. Zakir Husain took leave for completing his PhD and chose Germany over Britain, where most of the top people were educated. As Jamia struggled for funds, he sent messages of encouragement, beseeching that Jamia be kept alive with his promise to return soon. When he did return, he brought some brilliant young Indians, including Mohd Mujeeb and Abid Husain with him, who dedicated themselves to Jamia. Along with them came a German Jewish lady who spent the rest of her life at the fledgling institution, having donated all her savings to it. When Delhi was burning in the riots of 1947, Mahatma Gandhi would repeatedly ask, “Is Jamia safe? Is Zakir Husain safe?”

Months earlier, when Jamia celebrated its silver jubilee on November 17, 1946, Zakir Husain, the Shaikh-ul-Jamia, addressed an audience that had Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Liaquat Ali Khan and M A Jinnah among others and said: “You are the stars of the political firmament. This is not the time to ask who lit the fire. It is time to extinguish the fire. The fire is burning in a noble and humane land. (But) How can I protect these beautiful buds from the fire all around? These words might sound too harsh. (But) at the rapidly deteriorating situation today, harsher words would still be far too mild. We know not how to express the anguish we feel when we hear that even innocent children are not safe in the reign of terror. An Indian poet has remarked: ‘Every child who comes to this world brings along the message that God has not yet lost faith in Man. But our countrymen have so completely lost faith in themselves that they wish to crush these innocent buds before they blossom’.”

Jamia won some outstanding personalities as adherents; men like Devdas Gandhi came and served it. Gandhiji’s support was the Jamia’s greatest asset, and his first visit after its transfer to New Delhi was a memorable occasion. With him were the Ali brothers, Hakim Ajmal Khan, M A Ansari, Jamnalal Bajaj and Mahadev Desai. Gandhiji sent his grandson Rasiklal to Jamia for his education. The death of Hakim Ajmal Khan deprived it of a great benefactor and Zakir Husain of a guide he greatly respected.

This was the Jamia for which Gandhiji spoke of going with a begging bowl and threatened to boycott it if, as some people suggested, the word Islamia be dropped from the name. Many years later, when legislation was being passed in the Parliament to grant university status to Jamia, Atal Bihari Vajpayee insisted that no attempts be made to tamper with the character of the institution he described as rich and unique in its quality.

For many years after its establishment, Jamia continued to be a close-knit family referred to as Jamia biradari. Its galaxy of legendary teachers presided over a unique on-the-ground experiment of Gandhiji’s Bunyadi Taleem. The pupils grew their own vegetables on campus, had a bank they managed on their own and once a year sent their teachers on picnic and ran the school by themselves. Both the junior as well as the senior schools had elections each year to elect the students’ union; the annual celebrations known as the Taleemi Mela included displays of exhibits prepared by various departments and some remarkable art work. There were exhilarating baitbazi poetry contests, debates and evening theatre. In keeping with the tryst with nature, all hostellers swam in the Yamuna. The university anthem appropriately describes Jamia as “Dayar-e-shauq” and “Sheher-e-Arzoo”.

With dramatic changes all around, Jamia too has understandably changed. For one, the day scholars dramatically outnumber those in the hostel. The compact biradari feeling might have been diluted and growing competition may have made the university population less insular and self-contained, but the feeling of being a Jamei is still the same. The Turkish writer Halide Edib is reported to have said that someone visiting India who has not been to Jamia would never know what India is. In its centenary year, one firmly must continue to believe that about Jamia, but yet, also say, “Is Jamia safe? Is India that we know safe?”

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Salman Khurshid is senior Congress leader and former external affairs minister

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/jamia-millia-islamia-100-years-education-protests-6930296/

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At Centenary, Jamia Millia Islamia Stands As A Symbol Of Inclusive, Secular Education

By Arvind Kumar

4 November 2020


“Jamia means university, and ‘Millia’ refers to its national character. The founders of the university were supported by Gandhi, who insisted the name should remain Jamia Millia Islamia and not be changed to National Muslim University. Together the founders built up Jamia “stone by stone”, said Sarojini Naidu, and “sacrifice by sacrifice”.

Men such as Hakim Ajmal Khan hoped to make Hindu children learn something of Islam, and Muslim children something of Hinduism. They hoped ‘a united Indian nationalism’ would emerge from this knowledge each community would gain of the other, a nationalism that was meant to be both pragmatic and non-sectarian.”

Githa Hariharan in The Telegraph when Jamias image was being tarnished in the backdrop of the Batla House encounter in 2008.

Less than a year ago from now, Jamia Millia Islamia was yet again in turmoil, which began with a protest against CAA-NRC, followed by spiralled events leading to police action that left many a student injured. And then began a strenuous and venomous attempt to malign this historic institution by select electronic media. So much so, a panelist on one of the television debate aired on February 16, 2020 claimed: “…today’s Jamia Islamia is becoming Aligarh Muslim University of pre-partition era…” As a co-panelist on the same show, I took a serious objection to this prejudiced view, but I immediately sensed how logical arguments most often get lost amidst shouting on such debates.

As Jamia Millia Islamia completed its centenary on October 29, 2020, it is befitting to reflect upon the ‘idea of Jamia’; how it carved its own journey from within Aligarh Muslim University; and how this idea was in sync with the ‘Idea of India’ – multicultural, secular and inclusive.

On October 12, 1920, Mahatma Gandhi while addressing a group of students assembled at the Siddons Union Club at Aligarh Muslim University had asked: “How can you remain even for an hour in an institution in which you are obliged to put up with the Union Jack and profess your loyalty to a governor or other high ranking officials when in fact you are not loyal?”

Gandhi’s call for a complete boycott of the institutions of learning which were funded and administered by the British colonial masters provided serious food for thought amongst some young revolutionaries and the university campus soon started getting divided between two opposing camps, one being the proponents of status quo wanting to serve the colonialism and other ready to leave AMU towards a sacrifice for the cause of the motherland.

It was at this very juncture that the ‘idea of Jamia’ was born with a call for ‘national education in a national institution’. The concept of Nai-Talim, a skill-based education and preference for Hindustani as a medium of instruction further enriched this idea.

With its humble beginning at Aligarh, Jamia Millia Islamia had to immediately shun the eclipse of an already established Aligarh Muslim University, and hence it moved to Delhi in 1925. With an unambiguous vision as expounded by one of its founder, Mohammad Ali ‘Johar’:

“Jamia’s objective is that Muslim should (not) follow blindly the previous fixed path…the Jamia instilled hatred in the heart of every student be he a Muslim or a Hindu – against subjugation by foreign powers. It has kept its air free of transgression and prejudice. For these reasons the Jamia is both Jamia Millia Islamia and a national university.”

But what Jamia eventually went on to become has been best explained by Martha C. Nussbaum. For her, “Jamia was born radical; its curriculum emphasised study of nationalism as well as Islamic history; its admission policy welcomed male, female, Hindu, Muslim; its pedagogy emphasised debate and contestation in the teaching of all subjects, including religion denouncing the mere passive awareness of dead facts.”

For long years since its inception, even the degrees offered by Jamia were not recognised, not to mention how financial afflictions continued. It was only in 1962 that JMI was bestowed upon with a tag of ‘deemed to be university’. Finally in 1988, by an act of the Indian parliament, Jamia became a central university.

Interestingly enough, despite the word ‘Islamia’ in its very name, Jamia Millia Islamia was never a Muslim university; not even a minority institution until 2011 when National Commission for Minority Educational institutions declared Jamia a minority university. But Jamia Millia Islamia continues to hold the central university status.

There is no denying the fact that the very demographic location of today’s Jamia Millia Islamia is surrounded by substantive Muslim populace, but as Sachar Committee report had rightly observed that the social and educational backwardness of the Muslim community in India is no better than the status of the scheduled castes and thus Jamia comes as a blessing in disguise for the community too.

A university, in any case, is supposedly meant to serve as an intellectual lamp-post for the community and Jamia Millia Islamia as a dual-mode university with a national jurisdiction has appropriately been doing so, not just in Delhi but across the country with its Learner Support Centres for its Open and Distance Learning Programme.

In its centenary year, as Jamia Millia Islamia has achieved unprecedented heights, it is worth quoting Mushirul Hasan and Rakshanda Jalil from their aptly titled book, Partners in Freedom: Jamia Millia Islamia, “…it is a university with a singular difference. It has the past that sets it apart from other educational institutions. It has a character and identity that is uniquely its own. More importantly, it has a legacy, a rich inheritance that few educational institutions can lay claim to.”

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Dr Arvind Kumar teaches at the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, and has served as honorary joint director, Centre for Distance and Open Learning, Jamia Millia Islamia.

https://thewire.in/education/jamia-millia-islamia-100-years

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Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan Plays The Role Of Supplicant To Chinese Expansion | Analysis

By Shishir Gupta

Nov 03, 2020

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was most worried about Chinese reaction when India announced abrogation of Article 370, which altered Jammu and Kashmir’s status in August last year. After all, Pakistan had lured China into its fold under the pretext of showing Jammu and Kashmir as part of its territory.

Speaking to think tanks in Germany, Shringla said the world was increasingly witnessing debt-trap diplomacy

He also said that countries should be cautious about terms of engagement

Pakistan does not have territorial contiguity with China; it is only through the Occupied Kashmir and Northern Areas, precisely through the territories of Gilgit-Baltistan that Pakistan has been able to link with China. Earlier, Chinese interest in the area was limited to Shakshgam Valley as it wanted continuous connectivity through the area to its Xinjiang region. Pakistan was only too happy to comply with the Chinese request and handed it over 5180 sq km of its territory in 1963.

This was the first reality check of the so-called ‘love and affection’ of Pakistan for the people of Jammu and Kashmir it has continued to project for decades now.

Right from the beginning, Pakistan tried to project Northern Areas, as they were then called, in different light. It abrogated many of the privileges associated with erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in the region, including abolition of state subject law in 1974, and making the home of Shias into a Sunni majority area. The people of G-B still do not have even the most basic rights and privileges. They cannot elect their leaders freely as all the leaders are first screened and allowed to contest only after they swore allegiance to Pakistan.

Pakistan got China to construct Karakoram highway in order to have a backup plan for the region. The ecologically fragile region witnessed the folly of human intervention when in 2010 in Hunza, a landslide killed 20 people and blocked the flow of River Hunza. The resultant flooding displaced more than 6,000 people and inundated about 20 km of the Karakoram highway.

Undeterred by the tragedy, Pakistan again approached China for the construction of a realigned road. China, by this time flush with funds and carrying the impression of an emerging power, had realised the potential of the route which could have provided it alternate access to the Arabian Sea and through that to the Middle East and other countries.

This would have not only provided it an alternate trade route, but also acted as a backup plan should its access through the Malacca Strait is choked in any eventuality. China realised the value in having a friendship with Pakistan, which in any case would never be in a position to oppose Beijing’s desires and decisions. The Chinese thus sold them the idea of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan, misgoverned right from the inception, did not have the capacity to evaluate the pros and cons of the Chinese intentions. In any case, it did not have an alternative development plan to show to the people and therefore lapped the offer. However, Chinese were adamant that the legality of the area through which the corridor would pass should not come into the question.

China realised the precarious legal position Pakistan has over these territories when international lending agencies backtracked from financing the Diamer Bhasha Dam project, located in Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Diamer in Gilgit-Baltistan, based on Indian opposition. The project for which the foundation stone was laid in 1998, has suffered innumerable delays on account of the untenable legal position of Pakistan in the territory. However, China under Xi Jinping decided to come to the rescue of Pakistan and the Imran Khan government entered into an agreement with China Power in May, 2020.

It is interesting to note that not so long ago, in 2017, Pakistan had dropped the idea of getting the project financed under CPEC framework as China had placed strict conditions including the ownership of the project. Going by experience, China has always thought of undertaking construction projects in other countries as those fulfilling its own interests, as the investment potential of these are neither evaluated nor realised. It is not difficult to imagine what conditions China would have imposed to an even more desperate Pakistan in 2020 while agreeing on Daimer Bhasha Dam.

China has other interests in the Gilgit-Baltistan region as well - the projects financed and undertaken by it include Sust Dry Port, upgradation of Karakoram Highway (KKH), 820 km OFC project connecting Khunjerab to Rawalpindi and Jaglot-Skardu road. All these projects can be seen to be actually catering to the Chinese interests, a fact gradually sinking into the minds of an average Pakistani, who does not see any opportunity coming his way. The Chinese banks finance the projects undertaken by their companies involving their engineers and machinery and even labour. The markets in Pakistan are flush with Chinese goods and the Chinese people never deny an opportunity to snub a local in Pakistan.

Shops selling pork have become the mainstay in the majority of Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s towns to cater to the Chinese demands. There is so much mistrust between the Pakistanis and Chinese community that in a recent advertisement for renting out an upscale house in Islamabad, the owner specially mentioned that the offer was not for the Chinese.

It was in this background that when India decided to abrogate Article 370, the Chinese sensed threat to their strategic as well as investment plan and put pressure on Pakistan to find a way out. Imran Khan visited Gilgit-Baltistan on the so called 73rd Independence Day of the region on November 1 to announce provincial status for the state. Interestingly, Khan visited the region last year also on the same occasion when, going out of sync, he announced that Gilgit-Baltistan has always been the bridge between Pakistan and China. It is worth mentioning here that previously at no point of time in its entire history, the day had been celebrated with Pakistan PM’s visit to the region.

People of Gilgit-Baltistan are apprehensive not only about Pakistan’s intention but China’s too. Some of the pro-independence parties, including JKLF, have opposed Pak government decision to grant provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan. So called PM of Azad Kashmir, Farooq Haider Khan, along with local units of the mainstream parties of Pakistan have also opposed the move, fearing it may be overtaken by the Chinese.

The Emir of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir, Khalid Mahmood, rejected Khan’s announcement of giving provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan, saying this is direct interference in the region’s elections. He added that it weakened Pakistan’s stand internationally and is a violation of United Nations resolutions. His fellow party leader and convener of the All Parties Kashmir Coordination Council, Abdur Rashid Turabi, said that before making Gilgit-Baltistan a province broad based consultations must be held.

People of the area have already been expressing their resentment against Chinese projects. Residents of Chilas organised a protest (September 18) against non-payment of compensation for the land acquired for the construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam. Earlier, under the banner of Graduate Alliance and Geologists Association Diamer, the residents had staged a protest (on September 9 and 11) asserting their claim on the jobs and opposing inadequate employment of the local youth.

People have also been vehemently opposing Islamabad’s decision to lease pasture land to Chinese companies for mining.

Mirza Hussain, a member of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly, had alleged in 2019 that 300 mining leases were awarded to Chinese companies without consulting people. Pakistan, at the behest of China, introduced web-based customs duty at Sust Port in 2018. Despite protests by the local traders that this will lead to loss of jobs for the local population and threat to boycott the trade, Pakistan did not relent. It is interesting to note that when a number of girl’s schools were burnt in Tanger and Darel region in Gilgit-Baltistan in 2018, Pakistan had shown complete apathy for the people of the region. Lt Gen Nadeem Raza, Commander of the 10th Corps, while addressing a public gathering at Chilas, completely ignored the importance of the education of girls, and instead chose to caution that such incidents negatively impact the implementation of CPEC.

In Pakistan, it is well known that the establishment calls the shots. It is for this reason that the Chinese, instead of relying on the political leaders, wanted that the Army should be spearheading the CPEC. It pressurised the Pakistan government to establish CPEC Authority and appoint an army officer as its head. Accordingly, Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa was appointed as the Chairman of the authority in 2019. It is also interesting to note that despite the plethora of allegations regarding corruption by him, the Pakistan government has not been able to take any action against him. Moreover, there is also a proposal to exempt the CPEC from the purview of the National Accountability Bureau.

The present political structure of Gilgit-Baltistan suits Pakistan to undertake such decisions about it. With no political representation and no opposition, it is free to do whatever it wants with the territory. It is this relationship that permits Pakistan to play the role of a client state to the Chinese, a job it has always been willing to undertake.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/gilgit-baltistan-pakistan-plays-the-role-of-supplicant-to-chinese-expansion-analysis/story-8f0r5UPmP7E8R7EsXrpojO.html

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Ordinary Indians Are Standing Up For Inter-Faith Love As It Lives In Our Cultural Memory

By Pradip Kumar Datta

November 4, 2020


The intriguing thing about the Tanishq ad controversy is not that there was an outcry by self-appointed Hindu censors and immediate self-censorship by the Tatas. This was only to be expected in today’s condition of social intolerance enforced by powerful vigilantes of community “sentiment”. The state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, for instance, are considering a law against “love jihad”. This is not a new campaign. Over a decade of media activism and random vigilantism by “anti-Romeo” squads have tried to compel a consensus on the illegitimacy of inter-community love.

Given the velocity of this campaign, what has surprised many is the positive advocacy of inter-community relationships. The withdrawal of the Tanishq ad led to an astonishing blowback. Besides intense social media criticism, inter-faith couples appeared on television, courageously disclosing their identities, risking the possibility of social coercion, if not worse. All this for just a 43-second-long idealised representation of the wealthy life. Is there something in the romance of inter-community love that is so much a part of our culture that ordinary folk would stand up for it, risking reputation and limb?

Stories of transgressive love or parakiya prem have been popular in both the Vaishnav and the Sufi traditions. But there was something new in the 19th century. Lovers no longer doubled up as divine figures. Stories of love provided the heart of early novels, which featured people recognisably of this world. More significantly, in its founding moment, novels featured inter-community love. The most important one is Bankim Chatterjee’s Durgeshnandini (1865). While Bankim went on to write novels that could be interpreted as forerunners of Hindu nationalism, Durgeshnandini is different. Here, Ayesha, the daughter of Katlu Khan, the Pathan king of Orissa, falls in love with Jagat Singh, the son of her father’s enemy, Man Singh. The key moment is when Ayesha addresses Jagat as praneswar, the lord of her life, making it clear that she values personal choice over the demands of her community, family and the expectations of proper womanly behaviour. This scene lives on as an iconic cultural memory.

The danger of personal choice was quickly grasped by conservative critics. They criticised such love as “western” and even proclaimed the virtues of child marriage that would make the wife devoted to her husband and family. But more was involved than personal choice. Jyotirindranath Tagore’s play, Asrumati, features a stock Hindu nationalist situation: The fall of Chittor. Asrumati, the princess of Chittor, is abducted by Mughal forces. The outcome of this situation, however, is startling. Prince Selim, the son of Akbar, falls in love with Asrumati and, more astonishingly, Asrumati falls in love with him and repeatedly declares her love. The affair ends tragically but not before Asrumati raises an important question. How could she look at Selim as enemy when he had not behaved like one, she asks her father.

Asrumati was written four years after Sarojini, a play that features an iconic scene of johar following Alauddin Khilji’s conquest of Chittor. Both plays were written in the 1870s, in a period of early nationalism. Sarojini places its action in a Hindu-Muslim framework that foretells the onset of Hindu nationalism. More interesting is Asrumati’s reversal of a stereotypical communal plot of an abducted Hindu heroine. Clearly, the early imagination of nationalism could insist on religious nationalism as well as imagine alternatives to it. Jyotirindranath himself was associated with the Hindu Mela, an early nationalist initiative, and even founded a secret nationalist society. But he also warned against excessive nationalism that could produce hatred for others.

A number of inter-community romances proceeded to explore the nature of identity itself. Should identity be confined and restricted by one’s religious community? Two stories open up new possibilities in the conflicted 20th century. The first is Rabindranath Tagore’s Mussalmani Galpa published a year after the Pakistan resolution (1940). Here, Kamala, a Brahmin girl, is spurned as polluted by her family for having been abducted. She converts to Islam after falling in love with a Muslim. But she goes on to rescue her abducted uncle and cousin, restoring them to their Hindu society. The other romance is Pratibha Basu’s Samudrahriday (1959). It features the Dacca Nawab and Sulekha, the daughter of a respectable Hindu lawyer — childhood sweethearts driven apart by communal hatred to the point that they wish to kill one another. Yet, confronted by the Partition riots, the Nawab accompanies Sulekha to Calcutta to protect her from Muslim mobs. In Calcutta, Sulekha wishes to return to Dacca but is prevented by Hindu rioters who drag away the Nawab.

Both stories are about dual selves. The duality within each character endures even in situations of extreme communal polarisation. This duality produces doubled relationships. Kamala becomes a Muslim but restores her cousin to her Hindu family, asking her to remember her Muslim sister if she ever needed anything. The Nawab and Sulekha in Samudrahriday regain their intimacy because of the duality that survives their own hatred. Instead of a single religious identity, these stories open out the possibility of having conjoined identities that allows individuals to be both related to and different from others. These individuals become bridges between separate communities and families to mark — and risk — the possibility of conjoined social identities.

Stories of inter-community love have not had an easy career. Hindu nationalists attacked Asrumati for sullying the Maharana’s reputation. The Hindi translation of the play had to be withdrawn. Yet Hindu nationalist censorship could not abort these stories. Instead, the representation of inter-community love not only remained but developed — from asserting personal choice to thinking about alternative identities for a country that looked for freedom but was torn by the violent obsession with community boundaries. The story of the Tanishq ad is, then, not a simple one of suppression and violence. It also excavates layers of an equally powerful tradition. That is, of imagining a country that would be free to dare, experiment, conjoin and link up the identities of its citizens.

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Pradip Kumar Datta is a former professor of political thought at JNU

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/tanishq-ad-controversy-inter-faith-love-inter-caste-mariage-6930295/

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Allahabad HC Order On Conversions For Marriage Omits Vital Context

By Shruti Narayan

02 Nov 2020

“The Allahabad High Court said that religious conversion isn’t necessary for marriage. The government will also work to curb ‘Love Jihad’, we’ll enact a strict law. I warn those who conceal their identity and play with the honour of our sisters and daughters, if you don’t mend your ways, your ‘Ram naam satya’ journey will begin.”

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday, 31 October

With this statement, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister drew further attention to a controversial order passed by the Allahabad High Court on 23 September, which has been reported widely due to its observation that voluntary conversion of religion by an adult for the purpose of marriage, is not valid.

The order was passed on a petition filed by a couple seeking to restrain the State, and other unspecified parties, from deploying “coercive measures” to prevent them from enjoying a peaceful married life.

The couple in question, contrary to what the chief minister implied with his reference to ‘love jihad’, are a Hindu man and a woman who was formerly a Muslim, but converted to the Hindu faith about a month prior to the marriage.

Over and above this flawed reference, upon going through the order there is an even bigger question to ask: is this decision of the high court really in accordance with the law?

The High Court passed a two-page order dismissing the petition, apparently on the basis that the conversion by the woman had taken place only for the purpose of marriage.

The Single Judge has relied on an earlier judgment of the Allahabad High Court itself, titled Smt. Noor Jahan Begum @ Anjali Mishra v. State of U.P. & Ors. dated 16th December 2014. There the Court was deciding the pleas of five couples seeking police protection.

In each of the couples involved in that case, the woman had converted to the man’s religion prior to the marriage and, in at least one instance, the couple was being harassed by the local police.

The couples in Smt. Noor Jahan Begum were only seeking protection from harassment – which is unrelated to the validity of a marriage per se – but the high court embarked on a wide-ranging discussion on the validity of the conversions, and the subsequent marriages, under Islam, although the matter could have been decided without it. In this context, the Court concluded that the conversions by the women in each case could not be termed “bona fide” or “valid”.

The 2014 judgment does not deal with the potential legal consequences of such a finding, except to decline to grant protection from harassment.

Such an observation, as in the more recent case at the high court, could have far-ranging consequences for the persons in question. What is to be noted, in particular, is that the women’s consent to the marriage or conversion was not doubted in any of these cases – Noor Jahan Begum or the present one.

Misapplication of Supreme Court Precedent?

The high court also relied on a judgment by the Supreme Court in Lily Thomas v. Union of India from 2000, to say that the Supreme Court had apparently observed that “conversion of religion of a non-Muslim without any real change in belief in Islam and only for marriage is void”.

However, this is a curious application of the law in Lily Thomas.

There, the issue before the Supreme Court was related specifically to conversion to Islam for the purpose of a second marriage. The Court clearly framed the issue as “where a non-Muslim male gets converted to Islam without any real change of belief and merely with a view to avoid an earlier marriage and enter into a second marriage” (emphasis added). According to the court, in such situations, the second marriage would then be void under the rules of Hindu and Islamic personal law.

The facts there were that a Hindu man, who was already married to a Hindu woman, had converted to Islam in order to marry a second woman without having to first obtain a divorce from his wife. (He nonetheless appears to have sought a divorce from the first wife and did not intend to live with two wives.)

It is important to note that the second wife in this case was also a Hindu woman. Evidently, the man’s conversion to Islam was purely an act of convenience to bypass his obligations to his first wife under Hindu law.

This is clearly not the same as a religious conversion by an unmarried person to the religion of their chosen spouse-to-be.

The Supreme Court’s consideration of whether the person converting their religion undergoes a “real change of belief” cannot be read separately from the problem of the second marriage.

The judgment specifically noted that the erring husband in that case appeared to have converted in order to “get rid of his first wife”, and “escape the clutches” of his obligations under Hindu law. The judgment does not say that conversion for the purpose of marriage is invalid in general or in any other case.

An Order Ripe for Political Misuse

The couple before the Allahabad High Court in September were not noted as having any subsisting marriages. The order is silent as to any other reasons why the couple should not be granted protection from coercive interference by the State or other persons.

It also does not record whether the couple has already faced harassment or intimidation, which is not uncommon with inter-faith marriages. There may well have been other reasons why the couple was not entitled to the relief they sought, but the Court was not required to apply the judgment in Smt. Noor Jahan Begum.

It is unfortunate that, given the known barriers to marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the prevailing conservative attitudes towards live-in relationships in Indian society, conversion for the purpose of marriage is presumed to be suspicious or not genuine, to the detriment of adult citizens’ fundamental rights to freedom of conscience and religion (Article 25 of the Constitution) as well as their fundamental rights to privacy and liberty (Article 21).

It is also unfortunate that such observations, particularly as they have been made devoid of context, can be used by political actors interested in furthering unrelated agendas.

The UP Chief Minister’s statement, for instance, threatens violence to inter-faith couples where one member chooses to convert to the faith of the other for their own personal reasons by presuming that such an act is somehow derogatory or non-consensual. Hopefully these threats will remain dormant for the sake of the couples who remain, unfortunately, unprotected by the Allahabad High Court.

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Shruti Narayan is an advocate practicing in Delhi. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The New Age Islam neither endorses nor is responsible for them.

https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/allahabad-hc-religious-conversion-for-marriage-protection-of-couples-wrong-application-of-sc-lily-thomas-judgment

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Free Speech Is A Basic Right That Empowers Marginalised Lives

By Rajshree Chandra

November 4, 2020

The horrific beheading of the French teacher, Samuel Paty, has once again laid bare the fault lines of free speech. Tabish Khair’s piece (‘Lost in Paris’, IE, October 30) represents one such crack. Khair’s piece is a crying appeal against those who kill in the name of their gods and ideas, to not kill. Do not kill or afflict injury to bodies that bear contrarian ideas, he seems to be saying. And he is right — how can he not be?

I also agree with Khair that there is a need to respect people’s religion and not be provocative in the aftermath of the gruesome killing — as the French government as been in asking school teachers to show cartoons in class, or by projecting the cartoons on buildings. I hear him when he says that a competitive exercise of offensive speech may cost lives.

But Khair also seems to be saying something else, albeit in a veiled and guarded manner. He gives the example of the “dedicated French teacher who showed the cartoons to his students in good faith” in the exercise of his free speech. He also gives the example of the “some custodians of [Islamic] religious symbols in France who get outraged” and “post intemperate things on social media”, also in exercise of their free speech. Between the freedom of expression of the French teacher, and the freedom of outraged protestors against it, stands the figure of, as Khair euphemistically calls, an “angry confused man” who is “provoked” into beheading the teacher. To Khair, it does not matter whether ideas are good or bad. What matters is that in the conflict between the two ideas of free speech and sanctity of religio-cultural symbols lives were either lost or made to suffer.

It is here that Khair’s perspective becomes conservative in its implications. First, the fact that a barbaric, crazy man can either get offended or inspired by either of the conflicting ideas cannot be a “free-speecher’s” burden. There are many volatile ideas out there. Should any protest or campaign be mindful of a potential violent twist that may be given to their ideas? Should a causal link between the expression of “offensive ideas” and sufferance of bodies allow violent zealots to hold the right to ransom?

Second, unlike what Khair suggests, ideas have no real, independent existence outside of the bodies in which they inhere. Ideas survive only because the bodies in which house themselves do so. Had ideas lived autonomously, independent of the bodies and minds that carry them, ideas would not die. They’d be immortal and live on endlessly outside of their historical times, sociological habitats and changing minds. We would continue to believe that the earth is flat or in the practice of slavery or the absence of voting rights for women. But we don’t. And the reason is that some ideas die or weaken over time. They become anomalous and discredited either because they are disputed scientifically or because they are contested vigorously and passionately till an anachronistic idea is defeated.

Third, in the conflicting terrain of ideas, lies the kernel of social change. If ideas are not “good or bad” as Khair seems to be saying, how else do we discredit the Brahminical divine origin theory that professes that the Shudra is born from the Divine Being’s feet and, therefore, is the lowliest creature on earth? How else, except through a conflict of ideas, do women contest patriarchy and push back on received gendered ideas of womanhood? How else has the idea of “environmentalism” or indigenous communities’ rights become such a dominant concern of our times?

Agency to speech may often be a matter of one man’s good versus another man’s good, or one man’s relative truth over another’s. It may be a matter of one cultural value-system (the French and their free-speech principle) versus another religio-cultural sensibility (the sacredness of the Prophet). Till this point, both speech-acts (or ideas) have equivalence and each person must have the right to speak freely. But once you kill or inflict bodily harm in the name of an idea, the onus and responsibility of it is not on the people professing or countering an idea. So that we don’t offend a loony guy who picks up a gun and shoots, or so that we don’t inspire a crazy man to behead someone in the name of ideas, must we dispense with expressing the idea itself? It is borderline dangerous to make such a suggestion, no matter how obliquely.

Freedom of speech and expression may have been an Enlightenment, coloniser’s project and may actually continue to be so, sanctioning Islamophobia, racism and ideas of cultural superiority. But to belabour the point outside of its context is to miss two points. First, as Lebanese-Australian academic Ghassan Hage summed up in his Facebook post: Truth also needs to have its ethics. You may be truthful, but unethical. The beheading of Paty requires us to dwell on not just any killing but the bone-chilling barbarism behind it. To dwell instead on the genealogies and causes of violent behaviour is bad ethics, for it ends up being nothing more than an apologia for violence.

Second, it’s bad politics. The right to free speech empowers and enables many marginalised lives. It is a mistake to see it as an elite indulgence. It is a basic right that preconditions the realisation of other rights. So basic that it enables the weak and the oppressed to rise against their oppressors. It enables culturally disparate communities, including Muslims, to embody and carry with pride their cultural differences. In any case, free speech is restrained by the state through its many criteria of “reasonableness”. To further circumscribe it by burdening it with plausible violent appropriations, or with historical conditionalities, is to feed the logic of violence against freedom of expression.

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Rajshree Chandra teaches political science at Janki Devi Memorial College, Delhi University

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/france-teacher-beheaded-freedom-of-speech-hate-crime-6930297/

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Does Imran Khan’s Gilgit-Baltistan Vow Mean Pakistan Has Accepted India’s Article 370 Move?

By Jyoti Malhotra

3 November, 2020

Donald Trump or Joe Biden? All eyes are on one of the most momentous event of our times over there in America. But back here in South Asia, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promise Sunday that Gilgit-Baltistan will provisionally become Pakistan’s fifth province is so crucial that it bears some explanation – especially since it has led to stern criticism by India, which maintains that the move amounts to changing the character of the “undivided state of Jammu & Kashmir”, all of which belongs to India.

So what does Imran Khan’s announcement mean? Is this a reaction to Narendra Modi’s move to revoke Article 370 last year and integrate J&K into India? Has the Pakistan PM finally abandoned Pakistan’s long-held position of Jammu & Kashmir being “disputed territory”?

Let me explain.

Why Gilgit-Baltistan matters

Imran Khan’s decision is really a defensive move on the Great Game chessboard that began in 1877 when the British persuaded the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir to establish the Gilgit Agency and nominated a Political Agent to watch over and prevent the expanding ambitions of the Russian empire from reaching the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.

That chess game seems to have reached all the way into August 2019 when the Modi government decided to revoke Article 370, which gave special status to the former state, converting it into two Union Territories, thereby enabling their direct rule from New Delhi.

So here is the Pakistani argument: If Delhi can rip apart the fig-leaf and unilaterally bring J&K and Ladakh under its rule, why can’t Pakistan do the same with Gilgit-Baltistan?

Moreover, there’s China, whose $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) enters Pakistan at Gilgit-Baltistan, and traverses the country southwards until it reaches Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea. For years, the Chinese have been pushing Pakistan to give Gilgit-Baltistan legal status so as to protect this all-important corridor, which is a key link in President Xi Jinping’s most important instrument of international influence, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Certainly, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose manifestos have always loudly proclaimed the end of Articles 370 and 35A, never fully thought through the international implications of the move. Or if New Delhi’s foreign policy establishment warned the politicians, it clearly seems as if no one really listened.

But in this part of the world, geography trumps politics.

Geography over politics

This is Silk Road country, where trade caravans reached goods and people over centuries into nation-states with malleable frontiers, enriching all their economies. The Uyghurs of Xinjiang, the Sunni Muslims of Leh and south Kashmir, the Shias of Kargil and Skardu and Gilgit, and the Ismailis and Noorbakshis of Gilgit-Baltistan lived and died under the shifting empires of China, Tibet and the Dogra Maharaja.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, there are Kashmiri Muslims and Punjabi Kashmiri Muslims – as well as Shins, Kashgaris, Yashkuns, Pamiris, Pathans, and Kohistanis – with their distinct languages and traditions. Then, in the 1980s, Zia-ul Haq promulgated an order to allow people from elsewhere in Pakistan to settle in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan, thereby changing the demography of the region – much like the Modi government is doing today by changing J&K’s land laws.

A quick glance at a map of the region will display Gilgit-Baltistan’s incredible potential and geostrategic importance. No wonder this was the heart of the Great Game a hundred years ago.

In West Gilgit-Baltistan – part of the undivided J&K state until 1947 — lies the tongue of Afghan territory, the Wakhan Corridor. Northwards are the five ‘stans’ of Central Asia – five Muslim states Russified by the Soviet Union and still trying to discover themselves since that disintegration in late 1991. While north by north-east, nestling close to China’s Xinjiang, lie the jumble of mountain ranges with names that smell of thunder and other celestial beings. Kara-ko-rum. Al-tai. Tian-shan.

Crossroads of empire

Imagine the scene in 1947. No wonder Hari Singh, the Hindu maharaja of Kashmir, dithered and sought a Standstill Agreement between the warring parties, India and Pakistan. Why would anyone want to give up this enormous kingdom where everyone had lived comfortably – sort of – until now?

But when the Qabalis, or so-called tribal militias – some say, Pakistan army irregulars in tribal clothing – crossed into J&K on 22 October 1947, Hari Singh threw in his lot with India and signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October. One week later, on 1 November, the Gilgit Scouts under their British commander mutinied against the Maharaja and declared a separate provincial government – Imran Khan commemorated the territory’s 73rd “independence day” while speaking in Gilgit Sunday. On 1 January 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru’s India took the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations (UN). By mid-1948, Indian Army troops had pushed back the Pakistan Army and taken back large parts of Kashmir.

Hari Singh’s kingdom was broken up, to be administered in different ways: India gave J&K and Ladakh special status under Article 370, Pakistan gave Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, or Azad Kashmir as it is called in Pakistan, its own prime minister, president and unicameral legislature.

Gilgit-Baltistan was given some sort of nominally independent status but neither formally merged, nor given a legislature – it was directly ruled from Rawalpindi/Islamabad. It sat at the crossroads of empire. It was too important to be left fully alone.

Moreover, Pakistan feared, as did PoK’s leaders, that its case at the UN for self-determination of the “disputed territory” of J&K would get diluted if there was any hint of either PoK or Gilgit-Baltistan’s formal merger with Pakistan.

All this changed dramatically on 5 August 2019.

China’s move

The Modi government’s decision to revoke Article 370 for domestic political reasons has led to a slow earthquake — the new contours of this region, still not fully understood, are emerging only now.

First, if Modi could, in one stroke, go beyond the UN resolution and integrate its own part of J&K, then why couldn’t Pakistan do the same with Gilgit-Baltistan?

Significantly, Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa met all the key opposition parties in September to explain what was coming – certainly, in Pakistan, nothing can be done without it being masterminded by the Army.

Second, China, as we have seen, has been pushing the Pakistanis to give Gilgit-Baltistan some sort of legal status so as to protect CPEC which runs across it. According to the widely respected American journalist Selig Harrison, the Chinese have military personnel stationed in Gilgit-Baltistan for some years now.

Third, China put out in June that India unilaterally changed the status quo by revoking Article 370, thereby posing a “challenge to the sovereignty of China and Pakistan and made India-Pakistan relations and China-India relations more complex.”

Certainly, China knows better than to aggress into someone else’s territory; moreover, China could have asked India — and been explained — the meaning of the 5 August move if it was really so worried.

The Chinese took the easy way out. It read, in the legalistic change of the status of Jammu & Kashmir, the message that New Delhi could take stronger action in neighbouring Aksai Chin, because it controlled it directly, instead of via Srinagar. Except, of course, it is China which has controlled Aksai Chin since 1963 and has built several key highways through it connecting to Tibet.

‘Map-making must come to an end’

There is another message in Imran Khan’s move that has got little attention so far – by formally recognising Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan is also slowly abandoning its long-held position of Kashmir as ‘disputed territory’.

Imran Khan, via the Army, is acknowledging that Modi’s move to integrate Jammu, Kashmir Valley and Ladakh into India is not going to be undone. Therefore, Pakistan has no option but to keep the part of Kashmir that it has controlled since 1947 – PoK and Gilgit Baltistan.

Modi’s move, in fact, is an assertion of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh’s much-quoted line in the wake of the Kargil conflict: Map-making in the subcontinent must come to an end.

Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh reiterated that message to Pervez Musharraf in Agra in 2001 and afterward, again and again – but Pakistan didn’t listen. Almost 20 years later, as China asserts itself in South Asia, it seems to be telling its ‘client state’, Pakistan, the same thing.

Let’s take a look at the map again at this point: China is in control of vast territories in India’s Ladakh, the adjacent Shaksgam valley, which Pakistan illegally ceded to China in 1963 after India lost the 1962 conflict with China, and Gilgit-Baltistan next door through CPEC.

The Chinese aren’t coming, they are already here.

https://theprint.in/opinion/global-print/does-imran-khan-gilgit-baltistan-vow-mean-pakistan-has-accepted-india-370-move/536146/

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Uncivil Proposal: On Laws To Curb 'Love Jihad'

The Hindu Editorial

November  04, 2020

The astounding proposal by Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to enact a law to curb what they call ‘love jihad’ reeks of a vicious mix of patriarchy and communalism. Propounded by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the detestable idea amounts to legitimising a term that constitutes a blatant slur against inter-faith marriages and relationships in which one of the parties is a Muslim man. The ostensible reason for bringing in such a law seems to be that the “honour” of Hindu women is under threat from zealous Muslim youth seeking to win over girls from other communities for religious conversion in the name of love and marriage. The flaws in the concept are quite obvious: there is no legal sanction to self-serving and political terms such as ‘love jihad’ and there can be no legislation based on an extra-legal concept. In any case, legislative intervention in marriages involving consenting adults will be clearly unconstitutional. The domain of matrimony is occupied by separate laws governing weddings that take place under religious traditions, as well as the Special Marriage Act, which enables a secular marriage, including between couples from different faiths.

Mr. Adityanath, who has also threatened those allegedly operating in secret by concealing their identities, and his Haryana counterpart, Manohar Lal, seem to be making the same mistakes: using the term ‘love jihad’ in a communal sense and speaking about marriages as if they were not a matter of personal choice. They would do well to remember that earlier this year, the Union Home Ministry made it clear that the term is not defined in law, while replying to a parliamentary question. Investigation into marriages that purportedly raised such a suspicion also failed to find any substance in the allegations. The immediate context for these leaders to go out on a limb about curbing inter-faith marriages is a recent Allahabad High Court judgment that frowned upon religious conversion solely for the purpose of marriage; and the horrible murder of a 20-year-old woman in Faridabad by a stalker who happened to be a Muslim. By no stretch of imagination can the murder be used to denounce consensual inter-faith relationships. Regarding the court verdict, the High Court had declined to intervene on a writ petition seeking police protection for a recently married couple, noting that the bride had converted from Islam to Hinduism solely for the purpose of marriage. It had found such an expedient conversion unacceptable, citing a similar 2014 verdict in which the court had questioned the bonafides of conversions without change of heart or any conviction in the tenets of the new religion. Although the court strayed from the issue at hand, its objective was to underscore that conversion should not become a device. It is indeed salutary as a principle that inter-faith couples retain their religious beliefs separately and opt for marriage under the Special Marriage Act. However, this principle cannot be used to derogate from personal choice or become a ruse to interfere in the individual freedom to forge matrimonial alliances.

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/uncivil-proposal/article33015946.ece

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Stop Attacking Interfaith Marriages

The Hindustan Times Editorial

Nov 02, 2020

The idea of “love jihad” — where Muslim men ostensibly entrap Hindu women (sometimes by masking their own religion) and lure them into marriage (and then force them to convert), with the objective of changing the demography — has been a part of the vocabulary of Hindutva politics. From the fringe, this idea has got increasing mainstream acceptance within the political system. Now, Uttar Pradesh chief minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath has threatened death for those supposedly engaged in it, while Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar has spoken of bringing a law against “love jihad”. This is surprising because as recently as February, the home ministry told Parliament that the term isn’t defined in law and that no such cases were reported by central agencies.

The use of such vocabulary to describe interfaith relationships is insidious. It is a reflection of bigotry and patriarchy and has tremendous inflammatory potential. Indian society must embrace relationships across class, caste, and yes, religion, for there is no more effective way to integrate communities, develop empathy and understanding, and deepen national unity. No relationship or marriage should of course be based on either coercion or deception — and if there are any such instances, irrespective of the gender or religion of the person, then there must be legal implications. But to bracket any relationship which may involve a Muslim man and Hindu woman as an instance of a conspiracy to undermine Hindus is outright false. It is based on treating women as the property of others and denies them their agency; it is also based on manufactured fears and false stereotypes about Muslims. If a couple wants to get married, it is the State’s duty to enable them to exercise their right. Instead, the political regime appears to be enabling a climate of fear, distrust and violence and reinforcing the paranoia around interfaith marriages.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/editorials/stop-attacking-interfaith-marriages-ht-editorial/story-2dnF1CV4iGTA3l3l2mq0xM.html

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