By Adnan Bhat
25 Jun 2018
The struggles of couples from different
faiths have been at the heart of Bollywood films for decades, with audiences
rooting for star-crossed lovers.
In recent years, however, having a
relationship in India with a partner of a different religion has become
increasingly fraught with danger.
There is the so-called "love
jihad" conspiracy that has seen right-wing Hindus accuse Muslims of
forcing Hindu women to Islam, in an attempt to eradicate Hinduism.
Then there are cases of violent, often
fatal intervention in an interfaith union.
India reported an 800 percent increase in
so-called "honour killings" in 2015, with 251 people killed.
A Facebook page by the name of Hindutva
Varta (Hindutva Talk) recently listed the details of 102 Hindu-Muslim couples,
calling on people to attack the Muslim partner. That page was removed earlier
Also earlier in February, Ankit Saxena, a
23-year-old photographer was killed on the streets of New Delhi, allegedly by
members of his Muslim girlfriend's family, according to local media.
In January, a 20-year-old Hindu woman
killed herself in the state of Karnataka, having been harassed and bullied by
locals over her friendship with a Muslim man.
And on Wednesday, Tanvi Seth, a Hindu woman
in Lucknow, tweeted Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj describing an episode
of "humiliation" and "moral policing" at the passport
An official allegedly denied them
passports, reportedly asked her Muslim husband, Anas Siddiqui, to convert for
their marriage to be "accepted" and for her to change her Hindu
In these troubling times, Al Jazeera spoke
to five couples of various generations from different religious backgrounds
about their challenges, hopes and achievements.
"We have never thought of the creator in terms of, 'Who is God? Who is
Allah?' It never mattered to either of us. But of course, that's not how people
around us thought when we fell in love.
The objection largely came from the members
of my community - my neighbours and extended family ... They kept insisting
that she should be converted, if at all this has to happen.
The objection largely came from the members
of my community - my neighbours and extended family. They were openly
protesting the idea of me getting married to a Hindu woman, they were not happy
about it. They kept insisting that she should be converted, if at all this has
For her, however, the pressure came from
her own family, who put their foot down saying this marriage cannot happen.
After trying to convince them for a couple
of months, we finally decided to tie the knot without their permission. We left
home and got married and registered under the 1954 Special Marriage Act (The
1954 Special Marriage Act guarantees Indian citizens and nationals of other
countries the right to marry, regardless of either partner's religion).
After a few years of disengagement,
eventually, both our families accepted us and even organised a gathering which
was devoid of any religious ceremonies.
We have two children - our eight-year-old
son Antorik Rahman and six-year-old daughter Ipshita Dutta. A year ago, when we
were trying to get admission for our daughter in the school in which we had
enrolled our son, the principal was very confused to see the remarkably
'How can they be siblings?' she asked.
We were asked to send in our marriage
certificate to prove that we were actually married to each other."
'There was no need to imbibe a new
Surabhi Jamal, Who Is Of Hindu
Background, And 55-Year-Old Muslim, Parvez Jamal.
"We have been married for almost 30 years. We met in Mumbai in 1982
through some common friends. He was in filmmaking and also did some modelling
back then. In 1989, we got married.
Even though I'm a Maharashtrian and he's
from Kashmir, there was no Hindu-Muslim binary between us or the families.
My family members attended the wedding and
so did his.
Between 1996 and 2016, we mostly lived in
Kashmir. I worked as a teacher and Parvez focused on filmmaking. We have two
daughters, both in their early twenties.
In Srinagar, people just take you in and
they'll never ask you a penetrating question. There was no need to imbibe a new
religion, but customs yes, and I enjoyed that.
In Srinagar, once some men had come to our
house and they asked Parvez if I prayed. My family and Parvez told them it's
none of their business and that was the end of it.
Before our marriage, I remember people in
the neighbourhood would ask Parvez about his intention in marrying me. And in
Srinagar, once some men had come to our house and they asked Parvez if I
prayed. My family and Parvez told them it's none of their business and that was
the end of it.
But some of my students [in interfaith
relationships] have written about not finding places to rent.
If I could sum up how well our families
took it, then there could be no better example than my father. He would visit
us in Kashmir every year until he died. I think he fell in love with Kashmir
'We Left Everything Behind To Get
Tejveer, a 22-Year-Old Hindu and Saira,
A 21-Year-Old Muslim.
Tejveer: "We have been married
for two months now. We have had to leave our families, our homes, our friends -
just everything behind to get married.
We fell in love with each other when we
were in school. Nobody knew about it other than our friends. We knew it would
bring trouble if people came to know a Hindu boy and Muslim girl were going out
together. Our friends teased us about it. And one day, eventually, both our
families found out. There was a lot of trouble, especially at her home. Her
brothers had locked her up.
We both tried to convince them. We tried
for months but nothing came of it. Both our families were too stubborn, so we
knew we had to run away from them. There was no other way for us to be together
otherwise, and that's what we did. We ran away and came to Delhi. Then we got
married. It hasn't been easy here, either.
Renting a place proved to be a big hassle.
People would be nice to us at first, show us around, and even negotiate the
rent. But then, when they would hear our names, it made them really tense.
Now I work as a video editor and do some
camera work, and she mostly stays home.
Our families are still on the lookout for
us, we don't want them to find us. We just want to live peacefully.
'We Will Let Our Daughter Decide Her
Arun George, a 35-year-old Christian and
Maneka Rao, a Hindu
"We got married in 2012 and very honestly, we've really not faced any
challenges. Despite my wife being Hindu and me a Christian, we've never faced
anything because of our differences in faith, at least externally.
As a couple, the challenges we've faced are
more to do with adapting to each other's cultures, but religion has never been
in the mix.
Although, we couldn't do a church marriage
because we didn't want to convert - without this a church wedding wasn't
The other thing came up recently was what
religion our daughter should practice. We will let her decide what religion she
wants to follow, when she wants to.
I don't think [being in an interfaith
relationship is] that bad in some sections [of society]. But that said, I have
a friend who happens to be a Muslim married to a Hindu woman, and I can tell
you they go through hell.
'Nobody Objected To It'
Gulzar Hussain, a 40-year-old Shia
Muslim and Sumy Paul, a 37-year-old Malayali Christian
"She is an extrovert. She got along with the family, the neighbours and
even the extended family in no time.
We met when both were in a law school in
Delhi in 2007 and three years later we decided to marry. To be honest, we
haven't had to face any problems.
When we had to meet her parents before the
marriage, I wasn't nervous. Similarly, when we went back to Kargil for our
wedding, everything fell into the place. Nobody objected to it. Not her family,
not my family or neighbours. They were, in fact, all really happy about it.
Some people do face problems but that
wasn't the case for us.
Although, there was this one instance:
Once, we were travelling back from Srinagar
airport. Our tickets had been booked together but after seeing our names, the
people on the counter refused to give us the boarding passes. We had to speak
to the security official in charge and explain to him that we are married.
Every time my father would visit us Delhi,
he would bring her Kashmiri shawls and other gifts. She had a special relationship
with him, but I know there are people who face a lot of problems.
We are both practicing lawyers and we truly
believe that if the constitution allows us to get married, there should be no
reason for anyone to object. That's mostly how our story has been."