A not-so-rare incident of an alleged elopement of a couple ‘in love’ should not have caught media attention if not the woman in question were the daughter of an MLA, that too of the ruling BJP. That the video showing her complaining about a threat to her life and that of her husband went viral was not national news material either. Wide circulation of anything sensational on social media is now as commonplace as the fact that, increasingly in the spreading cosmopolitanism of India, partners in a couple will not belong to the same caste or community. Sakshi Mishra and Ajitesh Kumar are news because their affair has rendered society a house divided. Not all Dalits are happy with their decision to defy the parents of Sakshi. Not all upper castes are upset with the belief that she has climbed down a few notches in the social hierarchy to find her match. For, a modernising India is, thanks to the extreme push of their agenda by left-liberals, once again on guard as far as traditions are concerned. Analogies of the issue can be many. Not willing to, for example, wear a certain dress of one’s choice because it has been made compulsory by an authority. Or, bunking off one’s school because attendance is mandatory. Growing up in a liberalising economy that got globalised in the 1990s, young people were expected to make their own choices in careers as much as in choosing who they wished to live with. Parents were turning more and more accommodating, too — so much so that often children would take their ‘guardians’ for granted. When the issue turned political, as the left saw a regression in everything Hindu, even many an apolitical individual citizen turned right. As religiosity arose, so did one of the essential teachings of religion: Caring for the elderly, especially one’s parents. That care included returning to a life where the future course is decided by the past generation!

Things would be relatively simple even if it stopped at that. When the credentials of a seeker of freedom are questionable, the advocacy of individual liberty is misplaced. If love jihad entails waylaying a gullible girl, the man revealing his religion at a subsequent point of no return and then forcing the bride to convert, how does it turn acceptable if the man happens to be a Dalit rather than a Muslim? And why should even a Hindu take this lying down for the sake of unity in the community if the caste claimed by the seeker of legal and social protection is politically motivated and fake? As facts coming out of the Bareilly neighbourhood suggest, Ajitesh has always been a Thakur (Kshatriya) of Uttar Pradesh who turned a Scheduled Caste not before the day the vide of Sakshi spread like wildfire! No less than Mayawati and all other flagbearers of Dalit pride must call his bluff, given that the BSP chief was seen uncomfortable even in accepting the OBC status of the prime minister during the election campaign.

Finally, the question of cheating arises not from the caste but from the allegations of quasi-criminal antecedents of Ajitesh. If his friends, neighbours and other acquaintances are to be believed, he has duped several women in the past. If BJP MLA Rajesh Mishra alias Pappu Bhartaul shudders at the thought of the plight of his daughter as a result, his concern is plausible, notwithstanding his mellowing on television where he blesses the daughter and assures her she faces no threat from him. Of course, any shady past of Ajitesh does not justify the assault on him by a bunch of lawyers outside the Allahabad court where the case is being heard. It’s the judiciary alone that must decide the truth of the matter. At the same time, liberals must note that the court declaring the marriage of Sakshi with Ajitesh is not tantamount to a verdict. The judge merely opined on the bona fides of their marriage certificate, which was disowned by the priest of the temple where the wedding was solemnised. It will be wise of the lawyers of MLA Mishra to guide the case in the direction of probing the background of the groom and pressing for a testimony by the bride at a place where the probability of making statements under duress can be ruled out.