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Raghunath Redij, aka Appa is no more. An hard-core activist who started Sugava Mishra Vivah Mandal some...Read more

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The search for a life partner just got more interesting. That is if one is willing to forgo conventional parameters of caste, creed,...Read more

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                    परंपरा तोड़ता येत नाही म्हणुन किंवा आई-वडील , ज्येष्ठांनी , समाजाने पाळायला हवी म्हणून अलिखित सक्ती केली म्हणून ती पाळणे माझ्या...
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Special Marriage Act

Speciality of Special Marriage Act

 Ranu & Asif

There goes a famous idiom in Hindi “Jab miya biwi razi tab kya karega Qazi” that stress upon the determination of a boy and a girl to get married. It means “no authority or power of world can stop two people from getting married if they are determined”. Ranu and I decided to test the seriousness of the idiom by solemnization of our marriage under Special Marriage Act. The decision was taken after 2 years of debating on pros and cons of inter-religious marriage and persuasion of respective parents. Our search for possibility of marriage without religious conversion had revealed us Special Marriage Act (SMA). We were very happy to learn about it. We went through the Act after purchasing a copy of the Bare Act and were ready to exercise our legal rights like any resilient youth of our country.

 

We visited the office of SDM, NOIDA, Sector – 3 for filling our forms for the solemnization of our marriage. On gauging our seriousness, commitment and understanding about the act, the clerical staff asked us to meet in person with the SDM. Generally, the young aspirants are dealt by the clerical staff and their experience with them is so frustrating that most of the times they give up their thought of getting married under the SMA. Our meeting with the SDM was an eye opener for us. It is wroth quoting him here, he said “you guys are doing a good thing but, I cannot approve it in my jurisdiction as it might become a law and order problem for me. But, I would be the first person to come and sign as one of the witnesses to your marriage, if you do it at some other place.” We immediately realized the “speciality” of the Special Marriage Act. Anyhow, we wanted to get married as per the secular provision under the act therefore, we decided trying our luck in the country’s capital. We went by a general perception that the administration of Delhi is efficient in issuing certificates.

 

I retrieved my old voter identity card of Western Delhi since I was staying there earlier. I dared to enquire about possibility of my marriage from the SDM’s office of the region. The clerical staff that did the screening of our case ruined our momentary happiness by refusing voters card as an address proof. To our surprise, they first accepted it as a valid proof of address because the aspiring boy was from Delhi and girl was from Aligarh. Revelation of our names resulted in refusal. They first presumed that the girl is Muslim as she is from Aligarh (presumably a Muslim dominated town). This was the second eye opener for us to learn that process gets expedited when the girl is from Muslim community. Thanks to our feudal culture. We were not yet ready to give up our plans to get married according to only secular form of marriage and hence, we made one more attempt in East Delhi. Somebody told me that things are a lot easier in the eastern part of Delhi and I was not ready to loose any hope. The babu (clerical staff) gave me a wrong form. On pointing at his mistake, I was told that, their office had run out of forms.

 

Each failure had added to our insecurities and mental trauma. Our frustration had finally led us to a lawyer after 1 year of optimism and self determination. Since I exhausted all my address proofs to be used for marriage therefore, we decided to use the provision of police verification under the Act. The SDM can order a police enquiry in case there is no address proof of the principal applicant. Ranu shifted to North Delhi and used her address proof as the prime applicant. Finally we managed to get our marriage solemnized under a secular act. Our test of the famous idiom mentioned above had made us realize that it holds its importance for those who are least bothered about the Qazi. But, in our case we were keen to get legal and secular entity to our alliance and hence the “Qazi” had a vital role for our alliance.

 

I sincerely hope that the above narration about our struggle for marriage should not act as a deterrent to the aspiring couples. We experienced a lengthy and frustrating process because we couldn’t persuade our respective parents to be part of our marriage under SMA and neither did we wanted them to be alarmed by learning about our marriage solemnization. It is not necessary that similar pillar to post situation is faced by each aspiring couple. Few Dhanak (group of inter-religious/caste couples) members were able to convince their parents for their marriage under SMA. But, unfortunately 80 percent of cases under right to choose, who decides to get married with or without persuasion of their parents face similar situation. The question remains, that how many people can avail the SMA and what change it can bring in the scenario of intolerance. Only few literate, aware, city based and economically independent couples can use it but the majority has to rely on conversion or alliance without marriage.

 

The situation also reflects upon the 2 crucial aspects associated with the implementation of SMA. Our society is not yet prepared to accept individual’s right to choose and especially inter-religious alliance is beyond its imagination. Such relation is not acceptable without conversion. Therefore, the aspiring couples get to see only successful cases with conversion or are encouraged for conversion of one of the aspirants by their advisors. Probably the wise advisors themselves don’t know the answers of questions related to religious coexistence in case of inter-religious alliance. Those who dare to explore the possibility of alliance without loosing individual’s identity by conversion has to face the beliefs and biases of the Qazis of our administrative system (Marriage Registrar/officials) like we did in our case. The aspirants are either forced to choose the easy way of conversion or they end up eloping to save their dear relationship.

 

Situation has become worse after involvement Sangh Parivar into a totally personal affair of two individuals. Earlier the so called “insult” related to “love marriage” was confined to couple of families but now the insult has become community specific (of Hindus) after the Hindu right wing forces started taking special interest in the subject. The worse example is of Babu Bajrangi from Gujarat who proudly claims his act of separating more than 2000 such couples. Few of them were picked and terminated during Gujarat genocide in 2002. It is being openly claimed by the Hindu hardliners that Muslim and Christian boys are spoiling Hindu girls and they will not let that happen. The media covered sensation of few cases of IRM and inter-caste marriage in the year 2007. The desperation grew high in Bhagwa Brigade and Marath Samaj of Indore, M.P. and they announced a cash reward of Rs.5000/- for Hindu boys who marry a Muslim or Christian community in April 2007. Surprisingly the Hindu hardliners like Praveen Togadia and Babu Bajrangi has missed the essence of love or probably they are against love. Such heartless people can hardly understand that a lovely relation like marriage cannot be a mission.

 

Their 2nd burning concern is about ratio of Hindu girls marrying out of their faith is higher that the girls from other 2 major faiths in India. I think that the Hindu girls are fortunate that their community has offered a platform of opportunities for their empowerment and enlightenment. They are lucky to take a vital decision of their life. But, it is unfortunate and condemnable if such independence is curbed by conversion before their marriage. I hope that the Sangh Parivar is open for marriage of Hindu girls without conversion. I am yet to hear such a demand from them instead of no marriage of Hindu girls out of their faith. Regrettably, the Sangh is getting inspired by regressive practices and traditions in Muslim community against women and is keen on Talibanization of women in Hindu community too. I look ahead for days when girls/women can choose man of their liking or compatibility without any fear and compulsion. It will be too mean of anybody to control women with false morals and pride associated with different faiths. Attempts to regress women against their right to choose and non-conversion for marriage sake should be checked at all cost.

 

Similarly, the Muslim rightist who does not legitimize marriage without conversion & Nikah has started taking written consent of girl for their conversion. Saying Kalma of Shahadat by girl of other faith was enough for Nikah earlier. Islam permits marriage between “Ehel-a-Kitab”. Followers of the holy books; Koran (Muslims), Old Testaments (Jews) and Bible (Christians) are called Ehel-a-Kitab. Muslim boys can Nikah (marry) girl(s) from Jew or Christian community without any conversion. Surprisingly the presence of “But-Parast” (idol worshipers and Hindus in Indian scenario) was not considered worthy by the Prophet. It is for sure that cases of      IRMs are on rise and the religious leaders of the community are alarmed about it. 2 crucial Fatwas were issued by Islamic clerics on consecutive days in relation to inter-faith marriages. 1st was issued from Dar-ul-uloom, Deoband on 3rd July 2008. The head of fatwa unit, Mufti Ehsan Kazmi, said conversion for marriage sake should not be accepted. The fatwa was against recognition of any such Nikah. The 2nd Fatwa was issued on 4th July by Maulana Ahmed Jameed Ilyasi, President of All India Organisations of Imams of Mosques. It rejected the previous fatwa stating such fatwas will create tension in society and within the community. He suggested Dar-ul-uloom to stay out of such issues as there are very few cases of conversions for sake of marriage. The latter one brought some solace to those who are ready to sacrifice their identity for their valuable relationship.        

         

Unfortunately, no religion offers a scope of marriage without conversion. In majority of the cases the acceptance to the marriage is given on precondition of religious conversion of the girl. The guardians of religions are so scared from handful of cases of IRM that they are actively campaigning against it. They are ready to stoop to any level to stop such alliances or else they fear, it may set wrong precedence in the society. Since ages the struggle against unconditional love is on because love breaks boundaries. This natural feeling in humans had challenged all socio-religious norms since the very beginning and will keep challenging them eternally. Religions have to evolve with the changing social dynamics or else their basic massage of love and peace will be overshadowed by hatred and subjugation. No human will be delighted to witness growth in “honour (or shameful) killings”. Till then the constitutional provision of SMA is the only hope for couples who believe that love is over and above any man made identity and such alliances are best examples of religious coexistence.

 

I suggest few amendments in the SMA that can make it friendlier to its users. I feel that the 2 conditions need reconsideration in view of hostility associated with them. They are; display of Notice of Intent to Marry at a conspicuous place at Marriage Registrar office and sending of notice to the respective families of the aspiring couples by registered post.

 

The intent to marry notice is displayed for a period of one month with all major details and photographs. The applicants are under persistent threat from religious fanatic groups like Sangh, Jamaat etc. Such self styled guardians of religion take special pain to notice the details of couples and intimating or pressurizing the parents of the applicants. Sending of registered notice to parents for their intimation is again questionable if the applicants are eligible for the marriage under SMA. I can hardly understand that why there is such a suspicion or attempts of control if two adults intent to get married? The argument in favour of such practice is about ruling out fraud cases. I believe such fraudulent can be punished according to the provisions under the act. Even a conventionally arranged marriage with great care can also not rule out fraudulent cases and we often hear about them. Such exceptions are dealt within the legal framework of marital laws. Amendments in rules related to above 2 conditions will certainly improve the marriage solemnization process and will save the couples from loosing their faith.             

 

Coming back to my personal experience, I will not hesitate to accept that the whole period of 1-2 years of our struggle had helped us in developing common perspective about various issues related to inter-religious alliance. Our emotional testing had acted as a strong cohesive force that has made our marriage successful. Getting married to a person of choice is no doubt an achievement but, sustenance of such beautiful relationship till end is equally challenging. Dealing together with challenges proves helpful in evolution of admirable alliances.




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