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“My colleague told me I got lucky. While Ankit Saxena lost his life, I am alive.”
Sumit, who had an interfaith marriage, told us when asked about his reaction to Ankit Saxena’s murder. The family had slit his throat because he fell in love with their daughter, Shehzadi.
A 23-year-old boy was forced to pay the price for being in a relationship with a girl of a different religion. In India, interfaith and inter-caste relationships are fraught with many dangers. Many couples have had to pay the price of falling in love.
Ankit Saxena’s news broke our hearts. It shook us. How I loved Azra was as innocent as Ankit’s love for Shehzadi. This is a blow to interfaith couples and marriages. It has created a sense of insecurity for us and maybe even for those who are in interfaith relationships.
NCRB reports show that in 2014, in total, 28 cases of honour killing were reported, while in 2015, the number shot up to 192, which is almost an 800 percent increase. However, official records do not reflect on the number of cases that go unreported around the country.
But there are many cases that go unreported.
Like Ankit and Shehzadi
Sumit and Azra welcome us into their one-bedroom rented accommodation. A wooden plaque hanging on the wall says Sumit & Azra. Their house is a tiny world consisting only of bare essentials.
Sumit is from Haryana and Azra from Delhi 6. Their paths crossed on the first day of their political science class in Zakir Hussain College, Delhi University.
“We became friends. She completed all my assignments”
“I liked his way of thinking”
They both had a common friend circle and used to hang out with each other. In 2010, Sumit and Azra were coming back from the annual trade fair in Pragati Maidan.
I proposed to her in the Delhi metro. I didn’t say I love you, I said I like you. And I told her that we should be boyfriend and girlfriend.Sumit
I didn’t believe him. I went home and pondered over what he had said. After a week, I said yes.Azra
In the following months, the two travelled around Delhi, falling in love as they discovered new corners.
Inner Resistance & Opposition
“Initially, we didn’t think of getting married. We knew things would get complicated. We did try to end things, but realised it was too hard for us,” Azra said, telling us about the difficulties they faced in their relationship.
In the final year of college, the two decided to tell their parents about each other.
My father passed away when I was young. My mother said it cannot happen. I asked my sister to help and I arranged a meeting between all of them at Akshardham. After the meeting, mother agreed. However, there were extended relatives who weren’t happy with the decision.Sumit
Azra's family were very strict though.
My mother said these things happen only in movies and not in reality. Think of our society and the family. Sumit and I were worried about the larger implication of our decision on other members of the house. Like my sisters, who were still in school.Azra
After several attempts to convince Azra’s family, the two were worried that Azra’s parents would get her married or send her off to some village. Being political science students, they knew about the Special Marriage Act. In order to avoid religious conversion, they got married under the law on 22 June 2016.
A day before the wedding, I went to buy her a suit and got a new pair of clothes for myself too. There was nobody to help. Just thought doing so would make the occasion a happier one. Some of our friends came and many didn’t. Those who didn’t seem to have broken all ties with us.Sumit
Post their marriage, Azra’s family only had one demand – Sumit should convert to Islam. “I felt bad. For Sumit and I, religion wasn’t important. Our feelings were more important...” Azra stopped midway as tears started welling up in her eyes. Her family still hasn’t accept their marriage.
How to Sustain an Interfaith Marriage
After an interfaith marriage, the couple has to show they are a happy couple. You have to prove that you are happy, and you are leading a good life. If there are differences, you can’t discuss it with your mother or other family members. You have to address the issue among yourselves. Not leaving any space for another person to interfere. If we are angry, we take it out on each other. We tell each other everything. Our friendship is the best part of our relationship.Sumit
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