'Don't give communal twist to domestic violence,' Interfaith couples on Maharashtra's decision to form govt committee to monitor inter-religion marriages

'Don't give communal twist to domestic violence,' Interfaith couples on Maharashtra's decision to form govt committee to monitor inter-religion marriages

Interfaith couples married for many years prove love, and respect for each other’s religion goes a long way in making a marriage work.

Ashutosh M ShuklaUpdated: Monday, January 09, 2023, 08:40 AM IST
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Hindu Rashtra Sena took out Jan Aakrosh Morcha at Vikhroli on Sunday demanding Love Jihad law to be brought in Maharashtra; the talks on such legislation became rampant after Shraddha Walkar murder case came to fore | Swapnil Sakhare/ FPJ

Farhana, a Parsi married to a Maharashtrian Hindu Shreerang Chikhalikar describes her marriage of 19 years as “smooth sailing”. They got along when they were MBA students and eventually married. "Our outlook towards life was similar. Our marriage was more of celebration than rituals. Even now she makes it a pointto be part of all Hindu celebrations and I of hers,” said Chikhalikar.

Inter-faith marriages have been in the spotlight ever since the Maharashtra Government announced the formation of a committee to “look into inter-caste and inter-faith marriages” after a woman in a live-in relationship was allegedly killed by her partner. The Government later restricted the committee’s remit to inter-faith marriages.

Domestic violence is not communal, says Dr Lobo-Gajiwala

"Why is the issue of domestic violence being converted into a communal issue?” said Dr Astrid Lobo-Gajiwala, a Catholic married to a Hindu. “Do only inter-faith marriages have problems? Does that mean in marriages between people of the same religion, or arranged marriages, such atrocities cannot happen? Last November there was a case in Sitapur where a man killed his wife of the same religion and dismembered her. And why only girls? Are we protecting them or violating their right to marry whomever they want?"

Death over differences

Death over differences | FPJ

Sandhya Mhatre says her parents did not attend marriage or reception

In Sandhya Mhatre’s case, her family felt their relatives would not support her marriage with a Muslim, given the many stereotypes about the community. “My upbringing was in a textile mill area dominated by Marathis,” Mhatre, a researcher with Mumbai University, said. “The only impression they had of Muslims was that they are violent.”

Mhatre’s parents did not attend her marriage or reception. Dr Lobo-Gajiwala’s mother disapproved of her marriage to a fellow doctor, her husband of over 30 years now. "But later she accepted and loved him,” she said.

Respecting choices

Dr Gajiwala is vegetarian while his wife is not. “For the first few years of our marriage,” she said, “we did not have non-veg at home so that his relatives could visit us. When he visited my relatives, there was always special vegetarian food cooked for him.”

“We respect his choice,” Dr Lobo-Gajiwala said. “There have been adjustments from both sides, but that is how relationships evolve when you care for one another.” The clothes Astrid Lobo wore were never an issue, however. “In the early years of marriage I would wear a sari when visiting my in-laws,” she said, “but over time that too changed. The interesting thing was that once I began wearing salwar-kurtas, the younger women in his family followed suit. Now the youngest generation has full freedom in choice of clothes.”

Children are exposed to more than one religion

In Farhana’s case, her daughter's navjot was the only thing that upset her in-laws whom she describes as “very kind”. “Our idea of getting her navjot done was to ensure she has the choice of following the religion she wants to when she grows up.”

Farhana, who was married under the Special Marriage Act, said her daughter may choose to follow either religion or none. She still does Ganpati puja and celebrates all festivals.

This is a point most interfaith couples The Free Press Journal spoke to agreed upon, that there is no reason why following more than one faith should be a problem or conversion should be a deal-breaker. The equation between the couple, they said, was more important.

"Our children were exposed to both religions and encouraged to experience God within and beyond any particular form,” said Dr Lobo-Gajiwala, who underwent a Hindu as well as a Christian marriage ceremony. “They have been brought up to believe God is beyond religion.”

Couples told FPJ current brouhaha is political issue

Mhatre said her marriage was a tribal one and registered under the Special Marriage Act and she did not change her religion but let it evolve to one of “human being”. She has also retained her maiden name and surname. “We were in Dang [in Gujarat], so we married in a tribal way,” she said.

“I didn't even change my name or surname. When my mother-in-law desired me to take on the name Sofia, a Muslim-sounding name, even if I do not change my religion, I declined. She asked me not to come in a saree and bindi when she invited me to meet her relatives. I went wearing both. When she called me by that name to introduce me to her relatives, I did not acknowledge telling them it was not my name. She was annoyed. But my husband and father-in-law were fine though they were facing a boycott from the community. Now things have settled. My husband’s side calls me only for events that are of a mixed nature and not religious ones.”

All the couples FPJ spoke to also agreed that the current brouhaha is more of a political issue but there is no reason for the Government to poke its nose into people’s lives.

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