The moral of Meerut: Love makes a fool of all, even a jihad-obsessed BJP

Society has drawn those sexual lakshmanrekhas, and young lovers have willfully crossed them since time immemorial. True love, as de Rougemont observes, would not exist without its obstacles. It is, in fact, forged by obstacles.

Sandip Roy October 15, 2014 15:40:41 IST
The moral of Meerut: Love makes a fool of all, even a jihad-obsessed BJP

In the 1940s my great aunt created a scandal in Kolkata by stealing out of her grandfather’s zamindari estate in the dead of night and eloping with the man she wanted to marry. Today the reason their marriage was opposed by the family seems inconsequential, almost difficult to even explain. It was not about caste or religion or even class. They had the same surnames and were from the same gotra meaning they traced their lineage back to the same ancient rishi and were thus akin to brother and sister. It was a big taboo back then but today it hardly sounds like Laila-Majnu or even Saifeena.

The point is the course of true love never did run smooth, and for good reason. Rougher the course, greater the passion. Swiss philosopher Denis de Rougemont wrote in one of the definitive books on the history of romance, Love in the Western World:

Love and death, a fatal love–in these phrases is summed up … whatever is universally moving in European literature, alike as regards the oldest legends and sweetest songs. Happy love has no history. Romance only comes into existence where love is fatal, frowned upon and doomed by life itself.

Society has drawn those sexual lakshmanrekhas, and young lovers have willfully crossed them since time immemorial. True love, as de Rougemont observes, would not exist without its obstacles. It is, in fact, forged by obstacles.

The moral of Meerut Love makes a fool of all even a jihadobsessed BJP

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Those barriers have changed with time. Caste is no longer such an issue especially between the upper castes in metro cities. But class and religion remain potent still. Yet people still fall in love across those divides, as the BJP has found in Meerut, much to its political discomfiture. Its claims of a love jihad in that case have now been proved empty, proving once again the hazards of leveraging youthful romance toward political ends.

The BJP stands stymied by, of all things, the unruly human heart.

The young woman who had become Exhibit A in the Love Jihad narratives after being allegedly abducted, imprisoned in a madrasah in Uttar Pradesh, gang-raped and forced to convert to Islam for marriage, now admits that the only jihadis involved were the reckless inter-faith couple declaring war on age-old taboo on premarital sex of the extra dangerous, i.e. interfaith, kind.

In a groundbreaking interview with Neha Dixit for Al Jazeera she admits that she met Kaleem through a mutual friend while teaching in a madrasah and fell in love. She knew these marriages were taboo but he told her she could continue to go to temples after marriage. But then she got pregnant. It was a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy and she had to have an abortion for which she and Kaleem registered at the hospital as husband and wife. Her mother discovered the sutures and the whole story came tumbling out.

In the Bollywood version of this story the weeping mother would have taken to her bed and the father would have stormed and threatened and imprisoned her in her room. In the current political version she says he took the help of the Hindu Jagran Manch and Bajrang Dal and went to the police. Mind you, political parties are not needed to lynch lovers who transgress social codes. In Tamil Nadu in 2013 when Divya, a Vanniyar girl from a Most Backward Caste Divya married Ilavarasan, a Dalit boy it led to his death and in Vedaranyam another Vanniyar woman was lynched for her affair with a Dalit man. The BJP or the Jagran Manch are not responsible for this violent social and familial opposition. But political connivance fans any conflict into a more dangerous conflagration.

The Times of India's Ishita Bhatia now reports that a BJP functionary named Vineet Agarwal offered the family Rs 25,000 a few days after the incident and promised more help in the future. Agarwal says it was purely on “humanitarian grounds” and he would have done the same had she been of any other religion. Humanitarianism, like love, is apparently blind.

Kaleem ended up in jail as did Nawab, the newly elected pradhan. M M Baig, SP (rural) tells TNN “If the girl does not retract her latest statement, the case will witness a U-turn.”

It could be a scene out of Mani Ratnam’s Bombay except these characters are not fictional and real people are in jail and real people are afraid of honour killings.

But real people everywhere continue to fall in forbidden love, made more alluring by a society that both prohibits and valourises individual love story as true love against unjust social strictures of Hindu-Muslim, rich-poor, Brahmin-Dalit, Punjabi-Tamil and legions of readers are still perplexed by the choice Lata makes in Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. Falling in love, especially across a social barrier, is the virtuous way to rebel, unlike drugs and alcohol. It is our blind spot. We weep copiously as an ethereally beautiful Anarkali is walled up in Akbar’s court in Mughal-e-Azam even though in real life we act more like Akbar than lovelorn Salim.

This is not about being naively romantic about the power of pyaar to conquer all. Pyaar kiya toh darna kiya? Plenty, as national level shooter Tara Shadeo found out when the man she thought was Ranjit Kumar turned out to be a Raaqibul Hasan Khan who she says tortured, abused and had her bitten by dogs to force her to convert to Islam.

There are probably thousands of young women seduced into marrying the wrong men and vice versa because hearts march to their own beat. We may all debate the wisdom of inter-faith marriages – as many parents have with their recalcitrant children – but what is clear is that it is near impossible to hang an entire ideology on an instance of reckless love that cared little about consequences.

The young woman still wants to marry Kaleem. She tells Dixit. “It is us who have divided people as Hindus and Muslims but actually we all are one.”

Saif Ali Khan makes a similar heartfelt argument for intermarriage in the Indian Express , but intermarriage is NOT India. One does not fall in love across religion and caste lines as a project of national integration because one wants a life filled with Eid and Holi and Diwali.

If the BJP is really so worried about love jihad, it should just remove the allure of taboo from it. Nothing will kill forbidden passion faster than the socially-sanctioned and very secular grind of children’s homework, LPG cylinders and maid problems repeated day in and day out.

Saif Ali Khan did not get into that part of his inter-religious marriage but then perhaps Saifeena do not have to worry about such things. But one thing is for sure young people in places like Meerut will continue to fall in love not because they want to emulate Saif and Kareena or because they want to oppose the BJP but because the vagaries of the human heart pay no heed to logic, family and least of all to political minders.

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