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An inter-religion couple elopes, and zealots try to make it an issue
RAJAN PRAKASH | Issue Dated: April 29, 2007
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LOOK AT HER GLOW Marriage is private, though the moral police have made a public spectacle of it. Ironically, we are not talking about the likes of Aishwarya and Abhishek, but about an inter-religious marriage. In Bhopal, a Muslim boy, Umar, was at the receiving end of public ire, when he eloped with his Hindu beloved Priyanka. In Surat, Kader Khan alias Kabir eloped with his Hindu girlfriend and their story was telecast by Star TV. A mob calling themselves members of the Hindu Rashtriya Sena ransacked the office of Star TV and subjected the staff to abuse.

Umar converted to Hinduism and was re-christened Umesh. The Mumbai High Court upheld their marriage, but the zealots from both the communities reacted violently. The Sindhi community from which the girl hailed announced a code of conduct such as their daughters shall not be allowed to ride two wheelers or carry cell phones. A hitherto unknown outfit issued an edict to ostracise Umar from Islam, adding that he would not be accorded a final resting place when he dies. In the past, marriages between couples of the same sub-caste in Haryana have been declared null and void by the local Panchayats. In western Uttar Pradesh, couples have been hanged. Why are love and marriage in the public domain?

Ranjana Kumari of New Delhi's Centre for Social Research told TSI, “Marriage is private and raising a hue and cry is invading the private domain.” Inter-religious marriages are valid only if they are performed under the Special Marriage Act. The ceremony can be performed under the Hindu Marriage Act, but the non-Hindu has to convert to Hinduism. This is the crux of the issue, as ‘conversion to Hinduism’ has not been clearly defined by courts. Courts have displayed immense courage and commitment while dealing with such matters in the past. The Himachal High Court, while hearing Simran Kaur versus State of Himachal case, justified the marriage of a 15-year -old on the ground that the marriage was solemnised with the consent of the girl. In a country where instances of caste bias and sectarianism abound, such incidents raise hope. Marriages of this nature strengthen the basic framework of the nation and uphold the pluralistic nature of the polity.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017