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regular-article-logo Sunday, 04 June 2023

Frayed knots: Editorial on BJP leader calling off his daughter’s marriage to a Muslim man

Vigilante groups — UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s anti-Romeo squad is an example — or motivated art — The Kerala Story — continue to discriminate and demonise Muslims with impunity

The Editorial Board Published 26.05.23, 04:16 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

The personal can often turn political. This kind of conflict arises when the two realms are allowed to overlap. Love and consensual marriages are, in any civilised society, expected to be deeply personal choices. But New India, unsurprisingly, has a different view on such matters. Yashpal Benam, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader from Uttarakhand, was recently forced to call off his daughter's marriage to a Muslim man due to a social backlash. That the bride is an adult with the agency to choose her life partner mattered little to the shrill, bigoted voices outraged at the prospect of an inter-faith union. In Mr Benam’s case, the proverbial chickens seem to have come home to roost — his party has been instrumental in according legitimacy to the witch hunt that goes by the name of ‘love jihad’ against interfaith marriages. State legislatures in several BJP-ruled states — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana — have pushed through legislations seeking punitive action against mixed marriages. Ironically, that ‘love jihad’ is a right-wing bogey has been established by facts. The Union home minister of state, G. Kishan Reddy, had categorically stated in 2020 that no Central agency had received any evidence of forcible conversions in the name of love. But the spectre remains unvanquished. Vigilante groups — Yogi Adityanath’s anti-Romeo squad is an example — or motivated art — The Kerala Story — continue to discriminate and demonise Muslims with impunity. When this public dehumanisation of a people is not met with unequivocal condemnation or is tacitly endorsed by the holders of constitutional office, it sets a dangerous example: that the rule of law and concomitant rights and protections are not equal for all in a supposedly inclusive democracy.

In the course of the controversy, Mr Benam, however, made an important point. He said that in the 21st century, citizens should be free to take their own decisions. What he was alluding to was perhaps the collective need to prioritise rational choices over sectarian interests. Indeed, this remark highlights the bigger crisis that confronts modern India. Under the BJP’s watch, a rabid, regressive ethos is being allowed — engineered — to take root in society. Hate, polarisation, violence, division, anti-science, historical distortions and the peddling of false claims are manifestations of the rot. These larger transitions in society cannot but affect private lives. Mr Benam, like many other citizens, has discovered it to his chagrin.

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