Source: The Hitavada      Date: 28 Mar 2018 11:38:34




Our country has a rich cultural heritage embedded with love sagas - our Gods, mythologies and history are full of references to love stories that are famous legends across the world. However, India remains a conservative society especially when it comes to social norms concerning love and marriage. There was a time when only ‘arranged marriages’ were the norm and ‘love marriages’ were frowned upon. People who were to be bound by marriage and expected to spend their entire lives together saw each other just once or twice before the wedding day, and they would not know much about each other. In the twenty-first century, arranged marriage has gone through superficial changes in urban settings even as, in various social set ups, it continues to be the same old ritual of getting two strangers married. However, even though love
marriages have become more common and acceptable, archaic rules concerning love and marriages - especially of caste and religion (apart from class) - still rule the roost. Despite the progress on the fronts of education, technology and the economy, India as a collective society continues to be conservative when it comes to culture and social norms.

It is true that the mingling of young men and women is considered taboo and discouraged in most parts of the country. Recently, a local Haryana newspaper uploaded a video on its Facebook page, that went viral, speaking volumes about prevalent attitudes in the country against friendships between men and women. In the video, a person identifying himself as a lawyer practicing in the Delhi high court intervened when security persons and policemen in a public park asked a young man and woman, both adults, to give their parents’ contact numbers so that they could be made aware of what their children were upto. The lawyer could be heard making the cops aware that it wasn’t a crime for two adults to walk together in a park. In Uttar Pradesh, the ‘anti-romeo squads’ that were set up in 2017 by the Yogi Adityanath-government to protect women from being harassed saw self-styled vigilantes or ‘moral police’ often objecting to men and women hanging out in public places out of choice. Several men were put behind bars and no one knows if they had harassed women of were simply present at public spaces with their female friends or girlfriends. It might be premature to judge that choice-based marriages are easier in the urban areas. While more instances of choice based marriages are observed in urban areas, the general proscription against choice, especially if it implies a marriage outside community or caste backgrounds, exists even in urban areas.

Recently, 23-year-old Ankit Saxena was stabbed to death by the father of his girlfriend who was from another religious faith. The fact that this incident took place in the national capital speaks volumes about the state of affairs in the rest of the country. Marriages in our country have always been arranged keeping in mind strict caste considerations. Falling in love is often seen as a transgression of carefully guarded caste and community lines. Contemporary instances of violent repercussions to choice based marriages are cases in point, as they are seen as challenges to social order.
This is certainly evident from the hounding of couples, who cross the limitations of caste and religion, by Khap Panchayats in a few north Indian states and right-wing groups across the country. Every now and then there are cases of diktats issued against young men and women who dare to choose love over the shallow honour of their communities. There have been multiple reported cases of honour killings by families who believed that their children brought them unacceptable shame by marrying someone from another caste out of their own personal choice. Across India, caste considerations in marriage and friendships have always been significant.

It is indeed true that family ties are intrinsic parts of the lives of Indians. A lot of youngsters are either influenced by their parents or do not want to be insensitive to them when it comes to taking important life decisions. As a consequence of better education, technology and globalisation, a large part of today’s youth thinks differently from their parents, which can be called a wide generation gap. But deep-rooted family ties and cultural values also make them think like their parents on many issues. There is a never-ending battle between deep-rooted traditions and contemporary pragmatism, which leads many youngsters into confusion about significant decisions especially when it comes to falling in love and getting married. However, many are courageous enough to let go off the preposterous rules of societies and choose the path of rationality that believes only in following love and not societal distinctions. And for those who do not have the strength to break free from the shackles of conservatism and unreasonable traditions it is hoped that, as the years go by, better sense shall prevail.
(INAV) l