Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge completed 25 years today. The film has been existing like a dream for millions of Indians. Our generation, which was awestruck by the film, has always imagined our love stories to take after a happy ending like DDLJ.
The love story in the movie starts from the green grasslands of Europe and reaches its 'happily-ever-after' ending in Punjab’s mustard fields. There is an iconic dialogue at the end of the movie when Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri) lets his daughter Simran (Kajol) go with her lover Raj (SRK). Baldev Singh, as he leaves the hand of Simran says Jaa, Simran, jaa. Jee le apni zindagi and then Simran runs to her lover Raj marking the movie's end.
However, not all of India's Raj and Simran get their happy endings like DDLJ!
In September 2018, Pranay Kumar, husband of five-month pregnant Amrutha was hacked to death by hired assailants right in front of her. The assailants were allegedly hired by her father. Pranay Kumar was accompanying his pregnant wife for a check-up when a man came from behind and hit Kumar on the head with an axe.
What was the fault of Pranay and Amruta? Any guesses? Well, it’s not that hard to guess, because several people get killed for loving and marrying outside their caste/religion in India. And in the case of Pranay and Amruta, the story was no different. Pranay and Amrutha, belonging to different castes, married despite opposition from her parents. While Amrutha was an upper caste, her husband Pranay was a Dalit Christian.
Thus the thousands of inter-caste and inter-religious DDLJs in India never get to see the light of the day. For the Raj and Simran of these stories, the struggle of convincing their family goes on and on, without it ever reaching a conclusion. At the end of this struggle, many of them even get killed by their families. Now, if you have not yet digested this sudden shift of topic from a happy love story to a heinous murder let me tell you that, I am talking about honour killings in India.
While I gave the example of Pranay and Amruta, they are just faces of numerous caste-related honour killings in India.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which mentioned hate crimes under various headers, a total of 28 cases in 2014, 251 cases in 2015 and 77 cases in 2016 were reported with motive as Honour Killing (which includes cases registered under murder (section 302 IPC) & culpable homicide not amounting to murder (section 304 IPC) in the country. In the latest NCRB report under the headers of motives, almost 24 cases were registered in the section of honour killings. Further, maximum cases were reported from the land of Simran and Raj - Punjab.
These case which are reported are just the tip of the iceberg. In India, the case gets registered only when there is an attempt or a threat to kill the couple or when one of them dies in the attack. Many couples just succumb to the patriarchal norms of the caste-ridden society and choose to give up on their dreams of marrying someone they love instead of getting killed or ostracized.
Yes, because we have not gotten over of our whims of caste identities and we still measure the respect of a family on how much freedom we give to our girls.
Marriages across caste or religion in India are very rare. According to the India Human Development Survey (2013), only about 5% of Indian marriages are inter-caste. And in 2013, the percentage did not increase from the last round of the survey which was conducted in 2004-05.
The Indian caste system is hierarchical and marriages within the same caste protect the purity of the caste thereby maintaining the hierarchy. And protecting the purity of the whole caste is the responsibility of young members, especially our girls. And when few of the young ones choose that uncommon path it often leads to violent attacks from the family members, thereby ending their love story.
Thus until we let go of our patriarchal norms coupled with our whims of protecting the so-called caste hierarchies, struggle for these new ages Simran and Raj is not going to get any easier.
(Jagruti is a web journalist at The Free Press Journal. Views expressed are personal.)