Kerala HC’s indictment of ‘love jihad’ brigade is an urgent dose of secular sanity for India

DailyBiteOct 20, 2017 | 16:27

Kerala HC’s indictment of ‘love jihad’ brigade is an urgent dose of secular sanity for India

Once again, Indian judiciary has stepped in to inject the much-needed medicine of everyday secularism to a sick body politick. A division bench of the Kerala High Court on October 19 said that “every case of inter-religious marriage shall not be portrayed on a religious canvas and create fissures in the communal harmony otherwise existing in God’s own country Kerala”. The bench came down heavily on the “love jihad” brigade, and quoting famous African American civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou, uttered these beautiful words:


“Love recognises no barriers, it jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

According to the Indian Express, “the division bench of V Chitambaresh and Satish Ninan was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Anees Hameed, a 25-year-old from Kannur, who had moved the high court seeking the release of his wife Sruthi Meledath from her family’s custody. The court ruled that Sruthi be allowed to stay with Hameed, and dismissed the petitions of the woman’s parents and a helpline run by a Christian group that wanted to implead itself in the case.”


The High Court bench said: “We are appalled to notice the recent trend in the state to sensationalise every case of inter-religious marriage as either love jihad or ghar wapsi. Disturbing news is coming from several parts of the country that young men and women who undergo inter-caste marriages are threatened with violence or violence is actually committed on them.”

It added: “In our opinion, such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severely punished. This is a free and democratic country and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whosoever he or she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter. But they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence, and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage.”


In an ode to Sruthi, the woman in the inter-faith marriage in question, the judges said that they “applaud the extraordinary courage shown by Sruthi to live up to her conviction and decry the attempt of her parents to deflect the course of justice by misleading litigations. Sruthi is ordered to be set at liberty and it is for the couple to decide their future course of action without interference from her parents.”

This is an important and urgent judgement, that in fact rips apart the earlier judgement in May this year by a different bench from the same court in the Hadiya case, wherein the Kerala HC had “annulled” the marriage of a Hindu woman with a Muslim man, citing a case of “love jihad”, and giving the dubious campaign a quasi-official stamp. Since then Supreme Court had ordered an NIA probe into the marriage, thus throwing women’s autonomy to the winds.

The current order does its bit to not only dismiss, or at least provide a thorough castigation and a legal alternative to the Hadiya judgement, it also comes down heavily against the “ghar wapsi”, or the re-conversion and yoga centres that have been holding women captive, torturing them, in a bid to force them to re-embrace Hinduism.


In fact, Sruthi herself was incarcerated by her family at the Siva Sakthi Yoga Vidya Kendram, near Kochi, which helps in “reconverting” Hindu women who have crossed over to other religions voluntarily. Sruthi too had in her deposition in court claimed that she was tortured by her counselors, and was asked to leave her Muslim husband Haameed, but she refused.

It’s therefore significant that Kerala HC condemned violence against couples of inter-faith marriages, asking the government and the legal enforcement agencies to “bust institutions indulging in forcible conversion or re-conversion”.

The court added: "This is a free democratic country and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whoever he/she likes.” 

This, in essence, sums up the secular and democratic spirit of India, which allows all its citizens to freely choose their partners, irrespective of religion. What was a constitutionally given ideal, and what had allowed India to see countless inter-faith marriages over seven decades since its independence, is now under threat and needs reiteration by the judicial bodies.

It’s extremely distressing that in all the din about religion, love jihad and ghar wapsi, the fake campaigns of those whose political sustenance is derived from communal polarisation, what gets completely silenced and sidelined is the woman’s voice, agency and autonomy. Who are these custodians of majority religion and religious purity that they override a woman’s own wish to cohabit and/or marry a man from a different religion?

Even more appalling was the Supreme Court decision in the Hadiya case to order an NIA probe into the matter, when the Kerala government itself said that this would be intruding into the couple’s personal space, and was an absolute breach of privacy. What good was the recognition of the fundamental Right to Privacy by the same Supreme Court when Hadiya was failed by it?

It’s obvious that the love jihad brigade that has been overactive in Kerala, and has tried communal polarisation in the politically astute state that’s India’s most literate in the buildup to BJP national president Amit Shah’s not-so-successful Jan Raksha Yatra, will not learn and take a step back.  

While venom is being spewed and that too in an orchestrated, organised manner, both online and offline, we hope better sense would prevail with the millions of ordinary Indians who value our constitutional democracy, secularism and pluralism.

Last updated: November 28, 2017 | 15:37
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