The youngsters of India, who have taken to the idea of celebrating love, like many of their counterparts around the world, are now living under the shadow of a powerful law that can even outlaw love. Two states in India, namely Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have taken the lead in introducing ordinances that criminalise religious conversions through fraudulent means, including those held for the purpose of marriage. It’s essentially laws that criminalise love jihad, a term that has become a part of our collective consciousness over the past decade.
It might be recalled that medieval measures of discrimination have been implemented even in the 20th century by civilised societies. In September 1935, two anti-Semitic and racist laws were unveiled in Nazi Germany. Known as the Nuremberg Laws, the intent behind the implementation of one of these divisive policies was to protect German Blood and German Honour. The law forbade marriages and extra-marital relationships between Germans and Jews. It also restricted the employment of German women under 45 in Jewish households. This was just the beginning of the German pogrom against the Jews, which culminated in the horror of the Holocaust, which witnessed the systematic and industrial extermination of over six million Jews.
While the implication of the anti-love jihad laws being implemented in India might not seem to be as grave as the aforementioned scenarios, the acts of discrimination and the curtailing of personal liberties have always been frontrunners in the totalitarian race. Earlier last month, Karnataka’s Minority Welfare and Textiles Minister, Shrimant Balasaheb Patil had said that a Love Jihad Act will shortly be introduced in the state. Leaders in Karnataka are not isolated in their aspirations. BJP’s Kerala president K Surendran, ahead of the state polls, last week proclaimed that if voted to power, the party will introduce a law against love jihad, like it has been enforced in Uttar Pradesh.
The fact that love jihad has become part of our common parlance is problematic enough. What is more troubling is the length to which moral policemen in India have been emboldened when it comes to infringing on the personal space of consenting adults. Two years ago, the Madras High Court had posed a query to the Coimbatore district administration that had sealed a serviced apartment on account of an unmarried couple consuming liquor there. The Court asked that when a live-in relationship between two adults is not considered an offence, how can it be criminal for an unmarried couple to occupy a hotel room. The stigma on such relationships is so strong that even thousands of properties listed on top travel aggregator sites mention in their fine print, whether their hotel is ‘couple-friendly’ or not. Many a time, those checking in have been asked to furnish proofs of relationship such as wedding pictures or proofs of cohabitation.
That’s just one side of the story about couples in heteronormative, straight relationships. Exploring the hardships faced by members of the LGBTQIA community is like opening a veritable Pandora’s Box of problems. From the ostracisation and bigotry heaped upon them by members of their families to the pillar-to-post marathons run by individuals keen on legitimising their relationships through gay weddings, or even a simple act of love, of a gay couple adopting a child, it seems the one thing that India is most scared of, is being in love. This Valentine’s Day, let that feeling sink in.