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Kareena Kapoor: The forced face for 'Love Jihad'

Koral Dasgupta @KoralDasgupta

Updated: June 8, 2015, 11:19 AM IST
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I guess we are confusing two completely different issues here! One is the right to live a happy life with a person of our choice and the other is manipulating someone into an unfair relationship by faking love!

The first appears like a dream come true moment as every individual aspires to lead a life where they are loved, valued and respected for being the person that they are, unblemished by biased demands to welcome other's unfair influence on their thoughts. This form of love doesn't force its whims and people involved can genuinely enjoy each other's presence and practices, celebrating the similarities and learning from the differences. Such love or marriage is personal and pure. It reflects the cultures of traditional India which propagates collective living and mutual sharing till death do them apart. We have seen such happiness in people around us who are together because they value each other's company more than they value the issues that they might have against each other. This kind of love doesn't follow boundaries of religion or caste or country. The people involved don't judge each other based on things that were destined for them and were not a conscious choice that they had made! Rather they focus on something they can choose from their heart with all their practical and emotional guards falling in submission to someone.

And then there is the other form of love! Well-planned "love" arising from a reason. Not unheard are the stories where marriage happens because of dowry and women, along with their families, are subjected to intense harassment and abuse if demands of the groom are not met. The tabloids are full of such incidents happening all around us. There are also those, who marry to earn a citizenship in other countries by virtue of marriage to a woman of that country, which may or may not involve the heart but certainly involves the brain! We react to these stories with a soft nonchalance, happy that it didn't happen to us. We nod our heads sadly, blame the upbringings, curse the government and settle in the couch comfortably remarking "shit happens"!

We are however more fiery in our reactions when there is a certain "C" word thrown in between! For years we have managed to differentiate ourselves based on grounds of culture, practices, regulations and this has allowed our adventurous selves to divide into groups and claim superiority over the other. There activates the difference between "you" and "we", "yours" and "ours" and it gives us immense sadist pleasure in pronouncing supremacy over others with or without logic. Eventually comes the process where "we" empower ourselves by bringing more of you within our community, if required by force, all in the name of love; and "you" disempower us with the reverse! We have called these "Love Jihad" and "GharWapsi". The base of the issue however remains the same. Whether you married for a reason or without a reason; was your marriage a product of love or was it a result of prejudice! And most importantly, are you happy after marriage or your dreamy eyes were shaken brutally back to reality once you had taken the vow. Today if you are going back to your pre-marital status, through divorce or reconversion, is it by choice or by pressure!

Woman, you are in the center of all commotion and it is you we are discussing. What would you, the one who suffered it all, have to say?

It's horrific that the truth behind "marriage", which is supposed to be a personal choice between two individuals and their families, are questioned today even by those who have no connection whatsoever with it. I understand if a group of activists have taken upon themselves the noble responsibility of rescuing some women and giving back the life they inherited and lost, when they are caught in an abusive, forceful, deceitful relationship. What I don't understand is the psychology of so called "Hindu Fundamentalists" who chose to morph the image of a Bollywood celebrity and use it for their political agenda without her permission. First thing here, I would like to question who are those who proudly claim to be "fundamentalists"? With my limited knowledge I understand that Fundamentalists are those who have non-negotiable trust in their faith and they choose to preach and practice them with tremendous sincerity. Given this definition, the Fundamentalists should have immense faith in their respective religious scriptures as well, and that is what they should believe as final and absolute! If this holds, then for Hindus, Lord Krishna in Bhagvad Gita had said that he exists in all religions, among all living beings across the world, and he exists in different names. As much as I have been exposed to other religious scriptures, I have known every prophet to harp the same thought! So are we differentiating between this Krishna that appears in The Mahabharata and the one who appears in other holy books? And vice versa?Are we questioning our God? Where is that sincere faith of a fundamentalist then?
Coming back to the original topic, which by itself offers a million chance of deviation as we have experienced since the first word I wrote, it's extremely sad that Kareena Kapoor Khan has been forced to become the brand ambassador for Love Jihad!! And this has been forced upon her without truth or consent, and the image is taking rounds in social media like hot cake! What an unfortunate state we have reduced ourselves to. Kareena Kapoor Khan is an educated, well informed and well-resourced individual who is capable of taking her own stand. Her marriage is born out of love. She is living the kind of marriage that we discussed initially at the beginning of the article. The lady is not under any kind of pressure to stay married and neither did she convert herself to Islam. Even if she would have converted, given that her husband is the man of her choice and they are not trapped into a marriage of reason or convenience, she wouldn't ever be the face of Love Jihad. Her's is the kind of love story that we would love to find more among us; she seems happy with her man and completely in love with him in her own world. By inflicting such cruelty on her photograph we have only tried to make her face the communal angle in her marriage, which was absolutely unwarranted!

If the star is a face of Love Jihad, then so are many of us, without the religious stamp! Recently my Bengali cousin got married to a Kashmiri Brahmin; she got her ears pierced as is the custom with Kashmiris. They didn't ask her; she opted for it voluntarily. The images she uploaded in social media sites showed her enjoying in Jammu wearing a traditional Kashmiri dress. Or for that matter, consider me! A Bengali married to a Bihari; often my in-laws expose me to their customs or food or language and I have learnt some of them. They used orange sindoor in my marriage instead of the more customary red! It has been a worldwide tradition that post marriage women pick up quite some practices from their matrimonial homes. But no one would give a crude name to such exchange of customs in inter-community marriages till the individuals involved are affiliated to the same religious faith!

Probably Kareena Kapoor Khan's morphed photograph was an act of vengeance. It may have been conceived as a result of Saif Ali Khan's open article in a leading daily on Love Jihad, where he dismissed "religion" as any catalytic factor in his marriage with the daughter of the Kapoors. It is also possible that since the Mughals and Nizams, who they say were the main propagators of Islam in India, are no longer available, the activists chose to attack the "Nawab" because the title still exists in the love of the inhabitants of Pataudi! And of course, celebrity status of the couple certainly gave Vishwa Hindu Parishad magazine a share of visibility and publicity.
Inter-religious marriage is not a crime, as much as inter-community marriage is not. The question is whether marriage has made two individuals happy? Or is it that a woman has been forced to accept and practice the customs of her matrimonial family even though she vehemently and fundamentally disagrees to those. In all communities there are cases where a woman is forcefully married off by her own parents against her wishes. There are real stories where a matrimonial alliance has forced a woman to pick up habits that she is not accustomed to or doesn't believe in. Just because religion is not an issue there, it seems to be more fathomable that a woman is burnt alive because she could not submit herself to the whims and fancies of the family she is married to! And it is even worse that today a religious outburst gets more importance while the core issue suffers a back-foot!

Did you marry by will or by force? Did you marry for love or for purpose? Are you fulfilled in your marriage or you wait for the curse of each day to end? For those who respond in negative to these questions, can we have a political and social mechanism towards rehabilitation? For how long would we focus on non-issues and allow evil forces to take upon our conscious minds, reacting to Jihads and Wapsi's exactly in the way they want us to!
First Published: January 14, 2015, 2:37 PM IST
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