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Inter-religious marriage: Way Forward

by Rinku Khumukcham
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By: Sauro Dasgupta
We were shocked at the abduction and forced marriage of Mamneet Kaur to an aged Muslim man in Srinagar a few days ago but it was the way the Sikh community came forward to defend the Sikh daughter after the plea of the Sikh community alleging that he had been kidnapped at gunpoint and married off to the old man and how she was released from the police custody and married to a man of her community and then she and her husband went to the RakabGanj Sahib Gurudwara for prayers was indeed something to remember.
Hindu shastras do not recommend Hindus from marrying into other communities and the same applies to the Quran, Bible and Torah. Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs can marry people of other communities without any difficulty. A Sikh marriage, also known as Anand Karaj, is followed in the case of marriage of Sikhs with other Sikhs or with other communities. Unfortunately, in the past few years, the Buddhist political and religious leadership in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, etc has insisted on Buddhists marrying Buddhists alone.
In recent times interreligious managers have not ended harmoniously and many times in the couple have been killed either by the in-laws who are totally opposed to such marriages but do not express their dissatisfaction initially so as not to destroy the happiness of the children. Under the Special Marriage Act of 1954, an inter-religious marriage or a marriage of an Indian with a foreigner can take place without any trouble. On the other hand, most of the other marriages in which either the husband or the wife has to change his/her religious status are either under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 or Shariat Act 1937.
In the case of inter-religious marriages, often either of the parties and their parents may pressurize the other party in order to give up their religious faith and convert the faith of the husband or wife. Inter-religious marriage is sometimes opposed by the religious and political hierarchy. For example, in 1928, Maharaja TukojiHolkar III of Indore married Nancy Miller, an American woman who converted to Hinduism and adopted the name of ShrimantSoubhagyavati Devi. The marriage was strictly opposed by the Hindu hierarchy and the Shankaracharya of Puri had to intervene and he personally supervised the marriage of the Maharaja. Similarly, the marriage of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s daughter Dina Jinnah to Neville Wadia was strictly opposed by the Muslim political and religious leadership. However, in both cases the marriages took place and the couples lead a happy life.
A very big issue around inter-religious marriage is that sometimes the husband or the wife may be asked to convert to the faith of his/her spouse, which means that there would be certainly a lot of opposition from his/her side, often causing the killing of the person refusing to convert.
If couples truly love one another, there should not be any question of conversion to one another’s faith and both of them should be able to maintain their faith and both of them should be able to follow the rituals without any difficulty. In fact, the constitution of India permits the propagation of one’s religion and also does not prohibit conversion and this leniency on the part of the Constitution has been taken under the advantage of by the Muslim and the Christians religious leaders who have used it to convert lakhs of non-Muslim and non-Christians to Islam and Christians. Similarly, there are many provisions in religious faiths that encourage conversion. For example among the Parsis, a man can marry a non-Parsi woman but suppose a Parsi woman marries a non-Parsi man, her children would not be organised as Parsis and they would not be able to take the navjote ceremony and the entire family is prohibited from entering the fire temple. In fact, the entire family would be ostracised and they would have to live in the society of the community of the husband of the Parsi woman.
We should also understand the evolution of the Genesis of ‘Love Jihad’. In fact, this term was first coined in 2008-2009 by the church in Kerala in which they alleged that Muslim groups were abducting Christian women and converting them to Islam. This spread from Kerala to the rest of the Christian world in Europe and North America in which such allegations were frequently repeated. In 2009 then Kerala CM Mr VS Achuthanandan reiterated that such incidents were happening regularly. In 2010 the World Sikh Organization explained that in Pakistan Sikh women were being abducted and converted to Islam against their will and it requested governments worldwide to ensure Sikh women were not forcibly converted. After the advent of the BJP government in 2014, Hindu groups also started saying that Muslims were marrying Hindu women and allegedly converting them to Islam and in 2020-2021 many states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, after much deliberation, enacted several anti-conversion laws, despite Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy telling the Parliament that there was no record of ‘Love Jihad’ in the record of the Home Ministry.
Any inter-religious marriage, especially if it involves a Muslim should not be called love Jihad without first investigating the matter. If the forced conversion is taking place it should be investigated, however, one should not just merely on the basis of assumptions declare such a marriage as ‘love Jihad’. Religious and political leaders should refrain from communalising the issue in our society and they should not interfere in the love of two young people. If they love each other they should also marry each other without requiring any one of them to convert most of the time when any of the parties is forced to convert that is not because the other person in the marriage is forcing the husband or wife to convert but it is mainly because the pressure of the parents and the elder that another person is often forced to convert. Authorities should ensure that the elders of the society are never in a position to force their son-in-law or daughter-in-law to convert to their religious faith and only then can we ensure that inter-religious marriages prove to be as blissful as any other marriage.
About the author: Sauro Dasgupta is pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations at JadavpurUniversity, Kolkata, India. He is interested in reading, writing, public speaking and his writings have been published in many important magazines, journals and newspapers. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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