by Abhay Vaidya
“They do not belong to our caste; they do not belong to our community. There’s no way we can allow this marriage”
So goes the dialogue in many an Indian household day in and day out. A young couple has fallen in love, either in college or at work, and they want to get married. But there are many reasons for opposition; The couple belong to different communities, castes or sub-castes; the girl is older than the boy by even a few months (leave alone a year or two), and the horoscopes don’t match.
These differences often don’t mean anything to the young couple who are on the threshold of life and want to spend it with each other. But since the Indian mindset has remained stuck in matters of caste and haven’t kept pace with progressive thought, such love stories often end in tragedy.
India is sitting on a youth bulge, called the demographic dividend, as more than half of India’s population is under 25 years of age. The middle class today has more disposable income, a better lifestyle and better educational and employment opportunities.
Inevitably, youngsters will move to other towns, cities and countries for education and employment and the chances of falling in love with someone they like and admire are that much higher. Can these youngsters then be expected to carry the burden and baggage of their caste and community if they decide to enter into matrimony?
In extreme cases of inter-caste love, families resort to “honour killings” and don’t feel any remorse about taking the life of a son or daughter who’s defied the family and married a person of his or her choice.
It was just a few days ago that the Deputy Inspector General of Uttar Pradesh (Saharanpur range), S K Mathur, was caught on camera justifying honour killing. “Had my sister run away with someone, I would have either killed her or would have committed suicide,” Kumar told an aggrieved father who feared that his minor daughter may have been abducted. According to the local police, she had eloped with her lover.
Equally shocking was the case of a former additional district judge from Odisha who was arrested along with his wife and son on charges of attempting to murder his pregnant daughter-in-law after she refused to abort her baby.
According to a report in The Times of India, the woman was being forced to abort her baby from the ex-judge’s son.
As mentioned in these columns previously, channel V has a reality show called Love kiya toh darna kya where young couples in love reveal it to their parents on camera and seek their approval for marriage. Some fathers have actually become violent when taken by surprise by their son’s inter-caste/ inter-community affair. The bizarre Juhi Prasad murder case in Pune involving her fiancée and his long-standing girlfriend is suspected to have resulted from parental opposition to marriage.
Barely two months ago, a 25 year old medical social worker at a Pune hospital was killed in her sleep by her 65-year-old farmer father only because she was defiant about marrying a person from another caste with who she was in love.
Young India is changing but are the people willing to accept and address the issues arising from this change? Or are they trying to reverse the clock?
As the nation awaits the second episode of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate after its phenomenal success with the first episode on female foeticide, there’s little doubt that he’s done more than just stirred the nation’s conscience. His star status was the first selling point for the show- just as it was for Amitabh Bachchan’s Kaun Banega Crorepati or Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss. The show is entertaining because it is being presented by a sensitive and highly acclaimed star like Aamir.
From thereon, Satyamev takes an unexpected turn. It’s a powerful docu-drama with field reports. It’s also a reality show where viewers don’t have the luxury of being voyeurs from the comfort of their drawing rooms.
Instead, they are dragged in as participants because the issue is such that it concerns each one of us. As Aamir said in his first episode, “If you or a relative of yours is contemplating a sex determination test or aborting a female foetus, all you have to do is speak up against this crime.”
Aamir went on to elicit support through SMSes that cost a nominal Re. 1 and donated the amount to a worthy NGO. He met Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot to press for the setting up of fast-track courts to deal with doctors accused of facilitating female foeticide. Such was the impact of the show that Gehlot said he had already called a meeting consulted his experts.
Indian TV has never seen anything like this before- so well thought out and innovative from start to finish- that no one seems to be grudging its phenomenal success.
More than anything else, the show promises to eloquently mirror the dark spots in the Indian mindset. The sooner we address these dark spots the better it will be for our society.