Hindu-Muslim couples in Uttar Pradesh vindicated by Allahabad HC verdict, but wary of state intervention
Love can often be a radical act. When Shalu Singh, a 34-year-old school teacher from Shahjahanpur, fell for her college senior Faisal Khan, she knew they had a tough battle ahead. It has been 10 years since she ignored her parents’ wishes, courted their displeasure and married him anyway.
“My head had been filled with misconceptions about Islam. To be honest, even though I was in love with Faisal, I was not sure if I wanted to marry him,” she told TOI. “But after meeting his family, I changed my mind.” Her father has not spoken to her since.
I was not sure if I wanted to marry him. But after meeting his family, I changed my mind Shalu Singh, who married Faisal Khan 10 years ago For interfaith couples like Shalu and Faisal, this week has been a bittersweet mix of validation and insecurity.
The Allahabad high court upheld personal liberty in interfaith marriages and quashed an FIR against a Muslim man accused of kidnapping and forcibly marrying a Hindu woman. Then, the UP government issued an ordinance that casts a shadow on interfaith marriages, with prison terms up to 10 years for anyone found guilty of “forcing” religious conversion for marriage. It is not clear yet how it would be established that conversion was not consensual.
‘Log-kya-kahenge factor plays big role’ “What does the state have to do with what two consenting adults decide anyway?” asked Shahana Bebi, gram pradhan of the Savitapur Biharipur village in Farrukhabad, who married Rajveer Singh, a bank manager, nine years ago. “The law allows individuals the freedom to decide who they want to spend their lives with.” When those close to Shahana’s family insisted on Rajveer’s conversion before marriage, they refused. “We never interfere with each other’s faith … At our wedding, we got the rituals done twice — once for each set of religious customs.”
What does the state have to do with what two consenting adults decide anyway?
Shahana Bebi, gram pradhan, Savitapur Biharipur village, who married Rajveer Singh nine years ago The space for compromise does not always present itself. Gourinath Samudrala, a professor at JNU, had married a Muslim woman 21 years ago. His family did not attend the wedding. “My parents stopped responding to my letters and calls when I was pursuing my PhD, back in 1997 … My wife’s mother is also deeply religious. She could not accept that her daughter had married a non-Muslim,” he said. It was only when they were moving to Boston for a postdoctoral fellowship that his family called him home, once.
My parents stopped responding to my letters and calls when I was pursuing my PhD, back in 1997 … My wife’s mother is also deeply religious. She could not accept her daughter married a non-Muslim Gourinath Samudrala, a professor at JNU, who married a Muslim 21 years ago Besides individual prejudice, social pressure often plays a big role, some felt. “It’s a major concern — ‘ log kya kahenge?’ (What will people say) said Yashika Shaikh, a 30-year-old interior designer from Meerut. She married Asif Shaikh, whom she met through common friends, three years ago with grudging acceptance on part of their parents. “I come from a Brahmin family. Both our parents asked how we would deal with cultural issues … Interfaith couples have to go through hell to be together.”
Sandeep Rai, Anuja Jaiswal, Kanwardeep
Singh and Piyush Rai TNN
And when families do agree, systemic problems get in the way. Interfaith couples who wish to marry, for instance, have to give a month’s notice before the wedding. The new ordinance increases that period to two months in UP. “It shows how regressive politics can be, still implying that women have no minds of their own and can be misled,” said Alina Haider from Meerut. In her late 20s, both she and her husband Sahil Tyagi worked in the hospitality industry for a couple of years before getting married in 2016. “The high court verdict is welcome. But interfaith couples face a lot of harassment every day. A lot of damage has already been done,” she added.
That is where all couples agree — that the high court order needs to be accepted as a precedent. “It’s great that the court has passed this judgment, but it needs to be followed up with implementation, in practice,” Yashika said. Asif added that police have an important role to play in this: “Cops should work towards upholding this verdict. We owe our allegiance to the Constitution.”
Besides, personal liberty also means the freedom to practise any faith. Shalu, for instance, was never asked by her husband to convert to Islam, she said. “But a year into the marriage, I adopted Islam to better understand the culture Faisal is rooted in. It’s my personal choice. But if someone alleges it’s coercion, I don’t know how I would defend my faith, my love
Courtesy : TNN