We respect individual choice; however, while making adults out of children and adolescents is a parental responsibility, love jihad, a phenomenon of fraudulent match-making, is not in the interest of either love-smitten individuals or the nation

The Supreme Court has rightly refused to probe the marital status of Akhila-turned-Hadiya because the adult woman had appeared before the court to depose that she had willingly married Shefin Jahan. The term “love jihad”, coined in Kerala in the last decade following several instances of Muslim boys allegedly deceiving Hindu girls into marriages, but observed subsequently in other parts of the country as well, was initially incredible. Now, when many television channels have documented the evidence, those who believe this is a social phenomenon have increased in number. However, if the claim is that Hindu women are being waylaid, it is akin to questioning the intelligence of these women, which supporters of individual liberty cannot accept. There are but two valid questions that must be addressed to the communities concerned. One, Muslims must be asked, if their boy loved the girl, what primacy remains of the noble emotion of love when they seek to convert the girl to their faith. Two, Hindus must be questioned, if they are outraged by the idea of the girl moving to a different society, the right time to approach the issue was when their daughter was seeing the Muslim man and not when she has got married to him already. Breaking a genuine relationship would devastate both the partners in the couple psychologically.

The argument for or against love jihad cannot be as simplistic as that of tolerance, patriarchy, multiculturalism, modernity or the urge to forge a national unity by means of inter-religious (and inter-caste) marriages. If the concern is the woman’s compatibility with a way of life distinct from the manner in which she spent her initial two or more decades of life, her parents must be asked whether they had adequately educated the daughter about how differently the two communities led their routine lives, which involved not just the definition of God and ways of worship but also food habits, dialect, sense of hygiene, etc. If the apprehension is about the change in the demographics of the country — as Hindu men who marry Muslim women must embrace Islam, too, failing which the marriage is not halaal (legitimate) — well, nobody spares a thought to national implications at the time of falling for a person. If individuals are sensitised to the divergence in the two communities, intimate relationships between their members will be nipped in the bud. And it is nobody’s case that communities cannot live in peace together in a country if they remain endogamous.

The judiciary appears confused over Kerala’s case of love jihad. “Because if we speak to the girl and she says that she was forcibly converted and married off, the case is over. It will be unfair to you. So we will speak to her last before passing any orders. First, we will see what you all have to say,” Chief Justice of the time Jagdish Singh Khehar had told Kapil Sibal, one of the advocates for Jahan, in August 2017. Now if Chief Justice Dipak Misra says that his court is no longer interested in the probe by the National Investigation Agency into the matter because Akhila alias Hadiya has spoken already, the apex court is contradicting itself. If not for this case alone, the NIA must establish the ‘pattern’ it had observed in such marriages, as it had said to the court last year. We shall fight for the right of individuals to choose their partners, but fraudulent matrimonial match-making is neither in the interest of love-smitten individuals nor in the interest of the nation. Muslims who say that jihad is not an act of war against others but that of an internal cleansing of the individual will agree.