At a time when lovers are threatened and killed for transcending the norms of caste, religion, class and gender, two couples from Haryana tell us about their beautiful stories.
“It is not a love marriage, but a choice marriage,” says Sapna who married Surendar in 2016. By a ‘choice’ marriage, she means that she was able to exercise her choice in the matter, unlike an arranged marriage where parents of families choose a partner for their children.
Why does she emphasise on the word ‘choice’? Because choosing her partner means that she has a partner who understands her and respects her lifestyle and choices. “If I am going to spend my entire life with someone, the person should let me live my life the way I want to, they should not place any restrictions on what I eat, where I go and what I do.”
Their families belong to different castes, something that amounts to sacrilege in most Indian communities.
There should be nothing unimaginable and wrong with two adults exercising their choice, but it was not such a smooth journey for Sapna and Surendra. Their families belong to different castes, something that amounts to sacrilege in most Indian communities. It took them some time to convince their families and even today, not everyone may be happy. But at least Sapna and Surendar are living a happy life, a life in which they honour and respect each other’s choices.
Ankit and Shehzadi wanted to live a similar life, but their story was tragically cut short when Ankit was murdered by Shehzadi’s family because they belonged to two different religions. Much has been written about the murder case– why ‘liberals’ didn’t hold candlelight marches, whether it is a case of communal violence of not, where it is being politicised or not. Ankit’s father has appealed to not communalise the case and stressed that he does not hold an entire community responsible for his son’s murder. The alleged plan was to kill both Ankit and Shehzadi, and theirs is not the first case of ‘honour’ killing and like journalist Ravish Kumar pointed out, it won’t be the last.
“Love will triumph when honour killings are prevented. Caste will be annihilated when love triumphs.”
Kausalya and Shankar’s journey met with a similar fate when Sankar was killed by Kausalya’s family because he belonged to a ‘lower’ caste family. Kausalya has now dedicated her life to the annihilation of caste.
“Love will triumph when honour killings are prevented. Caste will be annihilated when love triumphs,” she writes.
Where families don’t impose restrictions and threaten their children for what think is a transgression of societal norms, other bodies jump in. In case of Hina and Nikesh in Gujarat, the local caste panchayat, a non-registered, extra-constitutional body, hounded them. Gujarat has reported the third highest number of ‘honour’ killings in the country.
In Hadiya’s case, everyone right from her family to her institution to the highest court in the country treated her like a puppet. Eventually, the Supreme Court did say that she is an adult and no one can question her marriage, but few listened to her when she said that she had converted and married out of her own free will.
“Parents have to think about their children’s happiness, sometimes they get too protective and don’t give children the freedom to choose,” says Sangeet, who also chose to marry a man from a different caste. Sangeet and her husband, Krishna, also belong to Haryana, a state known for the notoriety of its caste or khap panchayats that persecute and threaten couples who choose to marry outside their castes.
The Supreme Court, agreeing to reconsider its stand on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality, said that individuals who exercise their choice should never remain in a state of fear. But we can only wish that all couples are fortunate enough like Sapna and Surendar, and Sangeeta and Krishna. Thousands continue to live in fear as we speak; fearing being beaten up for being seen together in public spaces, fearing allegations of love jihad and fatwas, fearing to step out of the closet, fearing ostracism and death.
Video by Community Correspondent Reena
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV editorial team