I was always fascinated by Rousseau’s idea that family is the smallest political unit, and it became my secret fantasy to see larger political issues in a more local, personal context. Maybe Rousseau was indeed correct, and this I realised even more when I witnessed a cheap communal jargon turning into an ordinance. Here I am talking about the infamous ‘Love Jihad’ UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020, which has suddenly become the most crime cleansing legal tool in the state, that two people who are adults and consensually willing to come together are being thwarted so actively, that it seems to me that Uttar Pradesh otherwise is the safest, cleanest and free from poverty or developmental issues. Honestly, from an outsiders view it looks to me a funny drama in which some very useless people (the love jihad police) are put to some extremely harmful yet useless task (to hunt the inter- religious couple down).
The whole love jihad narrative (from hereby, word narrative will be used to refer to Love Jihad as it is a ridiculous name to use again and again) is flawed from multiple angles. First, it is outrightly communal and hits on a particular kind of inter- religious marriages where the male is a Muslim. This is a blatant attack on the intentionality of whole race of Muslim men. Second, it undermines the power of love. The narrative belittles the emotions of two adults who chose to fall in love with a ‘human being’ regardless of religion or identity. Third, the law assumes the naiveness of Hindu women. If the narrative is voiced out as conspiracy for converting Hindu woman into Muslims, then the flip side of this communicates about how suppressed Hindu woman must be; woman who cannot decide about their own good. Lastly, it is a misleading lens which is to be used to seep inside the houses of the citizens.
Talking about the houses, now let me go back to Rousseau and share about why is he referenced to again and again!What tickles my curiosity about the narrative is about how are the Indian parents processing it? The orthodox category of parents would either at peace, that now their work is done by the state, or would be even more tensed that if their child takes such a call, things are now going to be problematic personally, socially and even politically. The neutral parents might put their energies more into explaining their children about how to stay within their communities, even if they want to go for love marriages. And lastly, the liberal parents must be in the most dilemmatic situation because the state has brought their children to an edge from where they always kept them away.
The reason behind me thinking about the Indian parent’s outlook is the fact that ordinance has now brought our society at a clean mirror of testing times. This is like a social evil of opposing inter-religious marriages gaining legitimacy. This is exactly the time when a robust local shift of narratives inside a household have to find a place. As Ambedkar advocated for exogamy as one way to counter caste discrimination, more inter- religion marriages supported socially need to happen to voice out a clear mandate against the barbaric ordinance. The willing youth cannot be suppressed by a law, which seems to be made under the influence of substance, then by the society and especially by their parents. It is the hour on the clock when families, the smallest political unit, have to be rational more than ever. Because acting dissent is always more effective than voicing it!
Sariya Ali, Field Associate, Azim Premji Foundation.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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