Love, Not Love Jihad: Interfaith Couple Fight To Make Law ‘Equal’

The couple have moved Delhi HC seeking removal of 30-day public notice, inviting objections to interfaith marriage.

Updated
India
3 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

Camera: Abhishek Ranjan

Farah* and Gautam* (names changed to protect identities) met in college in June 2011. When they fell in love a few months later, their religious identities did not matter to them – despite some raised eyebrows.

But when they decided to get married, seven years after they fell in love, their faith became the central aspect of their life, and their decisions going forward.

While Farah’s family – who were practicing Muslims – disowned her, Gautam’s family said that they “would never let the union formalise.”

“For me, it was clear from the beginning that if I get into a relationship, I wanted to marry the person. And he was also clear. I asked him also. But (my) family disowned me. My father said that it was okay even if I never got married but they won’t let me marry Gautam.”
Farah
“When I told my family members they denied (permission) for the wedding. They said that this was not possible as she is Muslim and I am Hindu. They said that they will neither agree to it nor let the wedding happen.”
Gautam

The Special Marriage Act, 1954, allows registration of marriages like Farah and Gautam’s – which is not permitted by the personal laws of their practicing religions. The couple, too, wanted to get married, without converting from their respective religions.

This law allows any couple – irrespective of their religious, caste identities – to get married. However, the registration of such marriages comes with a strict process.

It also requires the marriage officer in their respective area to first issue a 30-day public notice – with all their details like name, occupation, age and address. Through the notice, the marriage officer invites public to raise objections to their union, if any.

The couple have moved the Delhi High Court, seeking removal of this mandatory 30-day public notice clause.
“In this period, anything can happen to us. Someone can beat us up, people don’t give us rooms to stay, don’t give us food to eat. So, anything can happen to us. Through our petition, we want to get rid of this time period.”
Gautam

Their petition argues that “objections can be mitigated on the basis of certificates issued by government hospitals” and that the procedure seeking public objection is not only discriminatory in nature but also intends to discourage interfaith marriages like theirs.

“We spoke to other (interfaith) couples who also said that the SDM told them that they should not be doing this. That Hindu-Muslim marriage is a wrong thing and that we should go with our mom and dad, and do what they say. But, our power, freedom and equality is being snatched away from us.”
Farah

‘Any Indian Citizen Can Raise Objection’

Any citizen of India can raise an objection to their marriage and once submitted before the marriage officer, their application to get married goes under review. Only after the ‘said objections’ are cleared is the couple allowed to marry. This process could take years, say the couple.

“Another thing is that, in other marriages, just the consent of two people is required. We are giving consent to each other. So, why are we being stopped for 30 days? Even a random person sees our notice and if they have any objection, can come to our house and can cause disturbance there. Is this what happens in a democratic country?”
Farah

Their petition states that it is “of paramount importance in the current scenario that couples opting for cross-community marriages are adequately protected.”

“We fell in love with each other. For the people we are. If others want to think, let them think... We have to do what we want to do. We have to live openly. There’s no need to fear anyone,” say the couple, even as they tied the knot after completing their 30-day notice period.

No one raised an objection to their union with the marriage office. But, not all couples are that “lucky”, they say, as they continue to fight their petition in court – for couples like them.

“Those who call my wedding ‘love jihad,’ I want to invite them to my house and say that ‘see, I read namaz and he does puja’. This will be the right answer for them,” says Farah.
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