Happy Valentine’s Day, India. Or maybe not.
On 14 February, your newspapers will be full of Valentine’s Day ads. On the roads, in malls, at restaurants, on TV – love will be celebrated.
But does India really deserve to celebrate Valentine’s Day? A day to celebrate love? Sure. But not love between people from different castes?
Earlier this month, in Rajasthan’s Mewar, locals refused to help cremate the dead body of a Jat woman, because she lived with a Dalit man. In March 2016, in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, a Dalit man was hacked to death in full public view for having married Kausalya, who was from a different caste.
Here are some other headlines our anti-love brigade would be proud of.
- Newly-married inter-caste couple in Chennai face death threats, seek police protection
- Intercaste couple shot dead 4 years after marriage
- Indian student hacked to death for intercaste marriage
Obviously, what better way to show that you love your family than by killing someone?
When two adults marry, nobody can interfere – proclaimed the Supreme Court on 5 February 2018. No parents, no society or khap panchayat can stop them, said the Chief Justice.
You know what the khap panchayats said in response?
“Don’t meddle or we’ll stop the birth of girls”
Yes, really – that’s what they said. “If these kinds of orders are passed by the SC, we will stop producing girls or won’t let them study so much that they start taking their own decisions.”
And you think educated urban Indians don’t think the same way?
How about you log onto any matrimonial site you know of? Or just open the matrimonial section of any newspaper. And you’ll see just how casteist urban love can be as well.
So, let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day, by all means. Let’s celebrate it by not letting love lose to barriers of caste.
A day to celebrate love? Sure. But not love between people from different faiths?
Ankit Saxena was murdered because he loved a Muslim girl.
Rizwanur Rahman was allegedly driven to commit suicide because he married the daughter of a Hindu industrialist.
And Hadiya, a Hindu girl who converted to Islam and married a Muslim man, had her marriage annulled by the Kerala High Court.
And it’s not just them. You, me, all of us know of friends who have dared to love someone from a different faith, only to be reprimanded and obstructed by their parents, relatives and “well-wishers”.
So, you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Let’s do that, by all means. Let’s celebrate it by fighting for those who love, breaking the boundaries of religion.
You can’t be barred from being with someone, just because they pray a different way. And when your uncles, aunts and parents say that that just is “how the world works”, tell them they’re wrong!
A day to celebrate love? Sure. But not love between people from the same sex?
In 2010, Professor Ramchandra Siras, who taught at Aligarh Muslim University, was filmed having sex with another man. He was hounded and ostracised for his sexuality. And then, he died under suspicious circumstances.
"It’s 2018 and our laws still criminalise homosexuality."
And so many of our religious leaders, and politicians, think that homosexuality is unnatural, an evil imported from the West, and so on.
So, you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? Let’s do it by shouting from the rooftops that love is love, whether you’re straight or queer.
But if you want a day to celebrate love only as society accepts it – narrowly, regressively, shamefully, with boundaries of caste, class, community and sexuality – count me out.
That’s not the Valentine’s Day I want to celebrate. That’s not the India I want. An India that does not love love.
Happy Valentine’s Day, India. It's time we fight for our love. My love, your love. Inter-caste, interfaith, interclass and queer love.
The right to love.
Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Editor: Purnendu Preetam
. Read more on Videos by The Quint.QRant: Does India Really Deserve to Celebrate Valentine’s Day?After Sunjwan, Karan Nagar Encounter in J&K Underway for Day 2 . Read more on Videos by The Quint.