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One of the means of measuring human progress is the declining influence of social identities in building human relationships. A society can only reach higher levels of progress only if it is able to break itself from the identities defined in terms of caste, religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, region etc. Unfortunately, in the 21st century for all the technological progress that has been achieved, yet socially regressive tendencies tend to define formation of social and human relationships.

An institution which provides a reflection of human progress is the institution of marriage. The influence of social identities – caste, religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, region still influence the decisions related to marriage. Matrimonial agencies whether online sites, middlemen agents or print media market themselves to offer the best defined products in lines with the needs of the clients. Matters of color, wealth, social status apart from social identity becomes important. Socially too marriage outside the social boundaries is seen as odd and going against the socially accepted norms by the preservers of tradition. Persons marrying outside the socially defined boundaries are often boycotted within the families and communities.

The role of Khap Panchayat dictating terms to ensure that marriage outside the caste boundaries do not happen is well known. The issuance of threats by Khap Panchayats leading to ‘honor killings’ is a regular phenomenon. Hence agencies whether an outdated ‘khap panchayat’ or the modern ‘corporate matrimonial agencies’ are the carriers of the feudal mindset.

A reflection of social repressiveness in recent past can be seen in matters of interfaith marriages. Whether it is killing of Ankit Saxena for going beyond his religion or restrictions on Hadiya for breaking the religious boundaries, restrictions get placed across all religious faiths. Matters of interfaith love get depicted as a form of religious war by fanatic elements. This may be depicted as ‘love jihad’ and interpreted as a formula for ‘conversion’ or diktats of ‘maulvis’ who tend to see this as unnatural. While ‘love’ may define the relation between the couple through the act of breaking boundaries, the religious fanatics in the name of setting boundaries tend to carry the hatred act between religions forward.

Interfaith marriages need to be welcomed. The persons involved in interfaith marriages need to be seen as brand ambassadors of social change. At a time, when the fanatic elements are out there to bring and widen the religious divides, such marriages only tend to state that in matters of ‘love’ and ‘marriage’, religion or any other narrowly defined social identity does not matter.

While India of the times has seen the rise of fanatic elements, at the same time it has also seen an increase in interfaith marriages, which gives a positive hope. According to some statistics, marriages under Special marriages act is increasing each year, under which most of the inter-faith couples prefer to marry. Hence such growing examples are only an anti-dote to the hatred being spread. They are perfect examples of the times to come, where religion is only going to be pushed behind.

While violence emerging as a result of inter-faith marriages need to be critiqued, the growing examples of inter-faith marriages need to be celebrated. At the cultural sphere, an increase in such incidents is only going to take the society forward.

Thumakunta Vasantha is interested in social issues and keeps abreast of current developments

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